Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday that arenas and other venues that can hold over 1,000 people would be restricted to 50 per cent capacity, citing projections the Omicron variant could drive a surge of COVID-19 cases that could overwhelm hospitals and ICUs in the new year.
In a statement issued Thursday, Curling Canada said it would continue to consult with health authorities on restrictions and ensuring a safe environment for athletes, volunteers, and fans at the event, which is set to run from Jan. 28 to Feb. 6 at the Fort William Gardens.
Local Scotties organizers had been planning for full capacity, after restrictions were lifted earlier this year. Host committee co-chair Rick Lang said "well over” 50 per cent of tickets have already been sold, with closing championship weekend closer to 90 per cent.
“Disappointment for sure is the word,” he said. “We’re still excited about the possibilities, but we'd really hoped this event would be a getting back to normal party for Thunder Bay, getting people together and having a good time and not having to worry about COVID.”
“We could always ramp it back up again in the event the government said we could have full capacity," he said, but conceded there was only a "glimmer of hope" that could happen.
Ontario health authorities have suggested in recent days the province will need to put some public health restrictions back in place to avoid overwhelming hospital capacity in the new year.
Curling Canada has a strong track record of holding safe events, Lang said, without any outbreaks or athletes getting ill in events held over the past year.
“So they know what they’re doing, and we’re already talking about what we can do to up the safety measures," he said.
Attendees were already required to be double vaccinated.
Ticket holders can expect an update in January, Curling Canada said. Those with inquiries can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lang said it would take time for organizers to evaluate the precise impact of the new restrictions, such as whether volunteers and staff would be included in capacity limits. He asked fans to be patient in the meantime.
“We want to guarantee everybody that refunds will be given," he said. "If we can’t accommodate you, you’ll get a full refund, but we’re not able to do that immediately until we find out the details of what we’re facing here.”
There's not yet a contingency plan if stricter measures were to bar spectators altogether, Lang said.
“That question has not been answered yet,” he said. “That would be [Curling Canada's] call. For the local organizing committee, of course, that would be extreme disappointment. We were hoping to make money for our local curling clubs and curling community, so that would leave us out in cold. But we’ll support whatever decision they make.”