No.4 June 2020
‘The time has come’, the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things,
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings,
Of why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings’
Through the Looking Glass
OK, it’s nonsense, but in the current climate anything seems possible, and the idea of a walrus and a carpenter enticing oysters to go for a walk along the beach and then eating them all seems hardly less strange than what’s happened over the past few months with bushfires, a viral pandemic and economic turmoil tripping over each other to demand our attention.
But the time has come for us, too, to talk of many things, and the big question is where do we go from here? Your committee met recently to discuss just that and you’ll be pleased to hear that we now have a plan for reopening the Centre, subject, of course, to the COVID-19 situation in NSW not worsening significantly. It won’t be anything like a return to how we were running before the closure but could become a new ‘normal’ that we’ll have to live with for a considerable time.
Our plan is to resume classes on 10 August for a 7 week term, followed by a break and then an 8-week term ending on 11 December. Covnveners have been informed and asked to think about what they might do. We have to recognise that while some members are itching to get back to classes, not only for the mental stimulation but also for the social contact, others are feeling hesitant, knowing that the virus hasn’t gone away and that risks remain.
Once we have the information from conveners a Course Program will be issued and enrolment information provided. Enrolments will be conducted exclusively online and there will be no fees payable. However, so as not to disadvantage those members with whom we are unable to communicate electronically and who normally enrol at the Centre, we have made appropriate arrangements.
Naturally, our prime concern is to make things as safe as possible for those members who do choose to return to class and to that end we have developed a COVID-19 Safety Plan based on government and medical advice. The main elements of the plan focus on distancing to minimise physical contact, hygiene to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus via shared equipment and facilities, and recording to ensure that we know who is at, or has been to, the Centre so that if a case of COVID-19 does arise then we have the information necessary for tracing possible contacts. The practical steps we are taking are as follows:
Physical distancing – all rooms and common spaces in the centre have been measured in order to determine the maximum number of people who will be allowed to occupy each space. You might be surprised to learn that even our largest classroom, Room 10, into which we have on one or two occasions packed more than 100 people, will have a maximum of 25. All other classrooms will be limited to 10
people or fewer. Seating within each space will be arranged to conform to the 1.5 metre distancing rule. So, please, when you see your friends again, no hugs, no handshakes, just a sunny smile.
Hygiene – members will be asked to use hand sanitiser on entering the building and at other times as appropriate. Dispensers will be available in all rooms, and after each class the chair arms and backs, tables, and any equipment that has been used will be wiped with sanitiser or disinfectant. Common areas will be cleaned at least twice daily but remember "we’re all in this together" so it’s important you do everything you can to help.
It’s important, too, to note that no tea, coffee, milk or biscuits will be provided while restrictions are in force, and all communal crockery, glassware and cutlery will be locked away. Hot water will be available for those who bring their own beverages and drinking vessels but we expect the new coffee shop near the St Agnes Village office to be open soon so you’ll be able to purchase refreshments there.
Recording – everyone entering the Centre will have their name and contact number recorded. Class attendance sheets will be marked by the convener. All members with smartphones will be encouraged to download the COVIDSafe app and ensure it is active.
Bearing all this in mind what might we expect to happen now? Despite the difficulties a number of courses were run remotely during term 2 using ZOOM or other means of communication. IT staff and the Convener Support Team provided invaluable support to enable this to occur and it is possible that some classes will again be run that way in term 3. The support team will continue to assist as well as looking at other options for running classes. Nevertheless, as the majority of courses were put on hold in term 2 we shall not know for some weeks how many will resume when the Centre reopens.
And while the COVID-19 situation has dominated all our lives for the past few months, and no doubt will continue to do so for many more months, we might take some comfort from the fact that it’s given us a chance to reflect on and re-assess what is important to us and how we might emerge from it as better people, individually and collectively.
The University of Tasmania is again offering its free online course ‘Understanding Dementia’. It opens on 7 July and runs for 7 weeks, requiring about 3 hours per week study. The course content will be accessible over a period of 10 weeks until 18 September. If interested you can enrol at mooc.utas.edu.au/landing/ud5share