Published Friday, October 9, 2020 10:04AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 9, 2020 5:13PM EDT
In a news release issued on Friday morning, the city said that it will be putting all “registered and instructional programs” on hold until further notice and will stop issuing indoor permits for social gatherings, sports games and group fitness activities.
It also said that hockey games and scrimmages at city facilities will be suspended, as will all drop-in sports programs other than leisure and lane swims and leisure skates.
Furthermore the city has announced that both the Allan Gardens Conservatory and Centennial Park Conservatory will be closed to the public as of Tuesday. Those facilities were closed in March to help limit the spread of COVID-19 but reopened in July.
“Right now, we all need to do our part to fight a surge of new COVID-19 cases in our city. Physical activity is a cornerstone of good health and we’ve seen first-hand how important it is for people to have access to recreation, but our rising case counts make indoor group activities unsafe at this time,” Board of Health Chair Joe Cressy said in the release. “While I know this is disappointing news for many families, it’s important that we continue to find ways to exercise and explore our city, through alternatives outdoors where people can safely maintain physical distancing.”
The city cancelled both its spring and summer recreational programs due to the pandemic but the offerings were supposed to resume this fall, with lower class sizes and other precautions.
That, however, was before Toronto started reporting hundreds of news cases each day. In fact, on Friday afternoon the city announced that there were 350 new cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, numbers that Mayor John Tory conceded were "alarming" during an unrelated press conference.
“Every single day when we meet first thing in the morning we are going through something different that needs to be changed or needs to be done to make sure we are keeping the people of Toronto safe. So there are changes that are going to be made today with the recreation programs and there will be more changes to come because we are trying to fight this back and keep people healthy,” he said. “You cannot have a health economy without healthy people.”
In the release, the city noted that the programs that have been suspended were “deemed high risk for transmission” due to the fact that they are indoors and involve physical activity that often leads to close contact.
The city says that there were approximately 20,000 registrants for the affected programs and that those individuals will be automatically refunded in the coming weeks.
It should be noted that a number of indoor recreational programs will continue in city facilities for now, including drop-in youth programs that do not include sports, permits for indoor athletic training, December camps for children, after-school recreation care and leisure swims and skates.
Tory has also said that the city will work towards developing supplementary programming that can take place outdoors this fall and winter.