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Pandemic puts this year's curling season in Orillia on ice

'They are the folks that the public health warnings are aimed at, and they felt it was just too risky,' official says after majority of curlers agreed to cancel season

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another local sporting organization's season.

The Orillia Curling Club (OCC), which usually returns to the ice sheets at Barnfield Point in mid-October, has decided to cease curling operations until at least next fall.

OCC President Joe Fecht says he met with City of Orillia officials near the end of July to determine if his 360 members could safely return to the Barnfield Point Recreation Centre this fall.

“At that point, there was a lot of unknowns and they were talking about a second wave in public health discussions, so we decided to cancel fall curling,” Fecht said.

After cancelling the fall start to the season, Fecht and the OCC planned to begin the new season in January. However, most OCC members decided it was in their best interest to not resume curling activities until the COVID-19 situation is under control.  

“We canvased our members twice, once in August and once in September, we found that 29% were willing to consider curling from January to March, the rest of the folks decided they would rather not curl because of their health,” Fecht explained.

The OCC’s biggest age group consists of people aged 60-69; their second biggest group of curlers is aged 70-79. 

“Curling for them is a recreational activity that lets them get out for some exercise and socializing, but they are the folks that the public health warnings are aimed at, and they felt it was just too risky,” Fecht said.

The costs of renting ice with low participation, the rise in COVID-19 cases, the challenges of social distancing, mask-wearing, and gathering limits ultimately made the cancellation of the 2020 season a no-brainer for the OCC.

Fecht says the OCC will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and depending on what things look like by late spring, they will begin planning for a fall season that will begin in October 2021. But even then, Fecht expects there to be lots of challenges.

“If there is a vaccine then, we don’t know how ready or available it will be to folks, and that will ultimately be the big test for people to feel better about coming back to curling,” Fecht said.