City of Toronto adjusting recreation programs in response to COVID-19 recommendations

In response to recommendations from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the City of Toronto is adjusting recreation programs in its recreation facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. de Villa recommended to the Government of Ontario last week that all indoor group classes in gyms and indoor sports team activities in Toronto be discontinued in response to rising COVID-19 infections. This is one of several recommendations made to protect the health of Toronto residents, keep schools open and quickly confront the current resurgence of the virus.

Based on these recommendations, Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff have been working with Toronto Public Health to review the City’s current recreation programs.

Effective Tuesday, October 13, the following recreation programs and services are suspended:

  • registered and instructional programs such as learn to skate and swim programs, dance, group fitness and wellness programs
  • hockey games and scrimmages
  • drop-in sports programs other than leisure and lane swim and leisure skate
  • table tennis, billiards, foosball
  • access to the City’s two conservatories
  • indoor permits for social gatherings and sport games/group fitness.

These programs are deemed high-risk for COVID-19 transmission due to being indoors, where the physical nature of the activity results in close contact and where masks cannot be worn.

The suspension of registered and instructional programs will impact approximately 20,000 registrants. Registrants will be contacted to advise of program cancellations. Refunds will be issued automatically over the next few weeks. Residents do not need to request refunds. Questions can be directed to pfrcustomerservice@toronto.ca or 416-396-7378.

City staff are working to adapt recreational activities that could be offered outdoors where possible, and to ensure that residents across the city are aware of existing outdoor recreation opportunities that are in line with public health advice.

The City will continue to operate the following programs with capacity restrictions and other health measures in place:

  • leisure swim and skate
  • lane swimming
  • fitness centres
  • arts and general interest instruction
  • After-school Recreation Care
  • December camps for children
  • drop-in youth programs that do not include sports
  • indoor athletic training permits with no game play, including hockey training
  • permits for outdoor sports.

All the City’s outdoor amenities in parks and green spaces, such as sports fields, skate parks, trails, BMX parks, tennis courts, basketball courts, outdoor fitness equipment, picnic shelters and playgrounds, remain open.

The City has also developed a number of programs for residents to explore within current public health guidelines including:

  • ActiveTO
  • BigArtTO
  • StrollTO
  • ShowLoveTO
  • Stay, Play and Learn at Home

BigArtTO digital art projections and StrollTO free exploration guides will continue as scheduled. These #ShowLoveTO programs take place outdoors, are self-guided and provide residents with an opportunity to engage in low-impact outdoor recreation. Participants are requested to follow public health guidance to wear a mask and physically distance. More information is available at www.toronto.ca/showloveto.

Through the Stay, Play and Learn at Home initiative, people can find a listing of free virtual recreational and fitness programs as well as fun learning and leisure activities. Visit www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-reduce-virus-spread/covid-19-stay-play-learn-at-home/ to learn more.

An overview of recreation service impacts is available at www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/.

Decisions to resume service will be made in consultation with Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health. More information about case counts in Toronto, case status data and changes to City services is available at www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/.

The majority of City services continue for residents and businesses in Toronto. To ensure physical distancing can be maintained in City workplaces, many services are now being offered online. City Hall and civic centres remain closed to the public.

All residents are reminded to adopt steps for self-protection: stay home except for essential travel to workplaces, schools, medical facilities, groceries and exercise; limit contact with anyone who doesn’t live in the same household; wear a mask when outside home, especially in indoor settings and when physical distancing is difficult; wash hands frequently; and remain at home when ill.

Quotes:

“We are committed to protecting the health of our residents and following the public health advice. We are doing everything we can as a City government to limit the spread of COVID-19. The choices people make are critical to helping us in this effort and I want to thank the vast majority of people for continuing to follow public health advice and doing the right thing. I know that the suspension of these indoor recreation programs will be frustrating for those who were looking forward to these activities. I have asked City staff to work towards developing supplementary outdoor activities that people can take part in safely this fall and winter.”
– Mayor John Tory

“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 acitvities unsafe at this time. 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.”
– Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health

“Active recreation is an important component to healthy living, and we are taking every step we can to get people active while limiting the spread of COVID-19. Active essential component to our recovery from the pandemic and we’ve rolled out several outdoor programs over the summer and early fall. We’re continuing this work with the development of new outdoor programming for the fall and winter season. The City is committed to offering people safe opportunities for indoor or group recreation as soon as public health guidelines allow.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Ward 21 Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee