PORT HAWKESBURY: Although two operations in the town initially expressed intentions to buck public health restrictions, the town is reporting full compliance to date.

During the regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council on Oct. 5, CAO Terry Doyle told council that the town has put together a document laying out the measures it needs to comply with the provincial government’s Phase 5 reopening plan.

“We worked together with our partners, especially our major users. So we’ve had discussions with the Pirates, the Cabot Highlanders and the minor hockey association to see how this would work. We offered support in that area, so we’re increasing our security assignments, especially on the weekends,” he explained. “We have a lot of customers and a lot of people who rely on the services that we have here. We’re trying to make this compliance as easy as we can for the public and for our major users.”

Doyle said everyone entering the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre is directed to the box office to find out where each venue is located, and at those venues, the public is then asked to provide proof of vaccinations.

“That’s going quite well,” the Chief Administrative Officer told council. “Everyone has been very cooperative and there are no complaints at this point in time.”

Although it has been added work, finance director Erin MacEachen confirmed that members of the public have been giving documentation of their vaccinations, even if it is not required (under provincial rules) to conduct regular town business like paying tax bills.

“I’ve had the joy of talking to all kinds of citizens and patrons coming in and out of the Civic Centre over the last couple of days, and it’s been nice,” she said. “Folks seem to be prepared with their documents.”

According to the town, vaccination proof is needed for those using the walking track, the Body + Soul Fitness Centre, the blood donor clinic, the arena, the Bear Head Conference Room, and other facilities within the Civic Centre.

The CAO said, despite a past Facebook post to the contrary, the owners of the fitness centre will comply with all public health restrictions. Despite the personal opinions of the owners, he said this was confirmed in follow-up conversations.

“All indications are things are going very well in the fitness centre,” Doyle said. “We met with the owners, it was not a difficult decision for them to make. They realize how the law worked and the stance that the Town of Port Hawkesbury had.”

In a Facebook post on Oct. 2, Body + Soul confirmed they will seek proof of vaccinations. The owners also announced that, subject to public health restrictions, the locker rooms are open, with plans to open the showers, then eventually the saunas.

“We would like to continue to have our facility open for you, which makes it necessary for us and you to follow the regulations from Oct. 4,” Body + Soul said in the Facebook post. “With all understanding for sensible hygiene rules, we hope that the new measurements will not lead to further division in society. Attention must still be paid to social distancing and the observance of sensible other hygiene rules.”

And not just the fitness centre, Papa’s Pub owner Mike Deveaux said he will also request vaccination proof, despite posting a sign in the window of the Reeves Street business weeks ago claiming he would not make such a request of staff or customers.

“To all my loyal customers and friends please know that I am completely against vaccine passports. I feel that our community is divided enough and this will add to more division,” Deveaux posted to Facebook on Oct. 6. “My goal was to allow everyone in and be sure to continue to keep everyone safe as I have been doing for the past two years by social distancing, sterilization of tables, hand sanitizers, contact tracing, and masks. This is way more than Walmart, Sobeys, Superstore, etc. are doing. Unfortunately after one day, citizens called in and reported me. I have been contacted by inspectors/health and was advised that I have to either close my business altogether or ask for passports now.”

While both he and MacEachen foresee possible challenges once the town hosts larger events, Doyle said he will keep council updated about the reopening phase.

“As we get into some larger events, then we’ll sort of test out more of our restrictions, and our security, and entrance requirements,” the CAO added.