Peel’s top doctor says he wouldn’t recommend reopening outdoor activities right now
Published Wednesday, April 28, 2021 11:28AM EDT
Peel Region’s top doctor says he wouldn’t recommend reopening outdoor recreational activities right now in order to avoid mixed messaging, as the province is under a stay-at-home order amid a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh says he would not call on the provincial government to reverse its decision about closing golf courses, basketball courts and other outdoor amenities as the Region of Peel continues to see heightened coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
“At this time, however, I think calling for reopening is a bit challenging in my position because as I've said we are still not yet out of this very severe third wave and I think to the degree that we're trying to really get people to understand essential meetings, essential purposes only and always with precautions,” Loh said during Brampton’s weekly COVID-19 press conference Wednesday morning.
Loh says reopening outdoor amenities while also telling residents to abide by the provincewide stay-at-home order will result in mixed messaging.
“So, while I recognize that it maybe wouldn't have been my first priority to close, I think a reversal at least at this point in the third wave is...a little challenged by our current situation,” he said.
Less than two weeks ago, Premier Doug Ford announced new provincewide restrictions to combat a surge in infections, including new police powers allowing officers to arbitrarily stop people outdoors, checkpoints at interprovincial borders and the closure of outdoor recreational amenities, including playgrounds.
However, due to public backlash, a day later Ford amended the police powers and reopened playgrounds, but other outdoor amenities remain closed.
Along with the new measures, Ford also extended the provincewide stay-at-home order, which was first implemented on Apr. 8, by another two weeks to at least May 20.
The order requires people to only leave their homes for essential reasons, including going to work, medical appointments, buying groceries and exercising.
Brampton mayor Patrick Brown agrees with Loh and said he is concerned about mixed messaging regarding outdoor activities, but reiterated that outdoor activities are linked to minimal spread of the virus.
“...At the end of the day, we need to listen to the Ontario Science table, and they say these are relatively low risk activities, it's good for people's mental health, physical health. This is tough enough as it is. This is a tough time for our community,” Brown told reporters.
Last week, a group of scientists that advise the Ford government on the pandemic released a report saying that any policies that discourage safe outdoor activity will not control the virus and “will disproportionately harm children and those who do not have access to their own greenspace.”
The panel said the Ford government should be “clearly encouraging safe outdoor activities” and “allowing small groups of people from different households to meet outside with masking and two-metre distancing.”
Brown added that closing outdoor spaces creates socioeconomic inequalities for those living in apartment buildings or crowded living conditions.
“So for me, it gives me pain to see these facilities closed because these public amenities are for the public to keep them healthy, both physically, mentally, and so I do hope that is revisited in a messaging format that is consistent with the need to not socialize with others,” he said.