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Vaughan closes outdoor skating rinks, toboggan hills and dog parks
Jan. 18, 2021
Victoria Revay and Shauna Hunt

The City of Vaughan announced on Friday that it is closing its outdoor skating rinks, toboggan hills and dog parks in an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The announcement comes on the second day of a provincial stay-at-home order that has kept most winter outdoor activities open, as well as playgrounds and parks.

Now some are wondering the logic behind this decision, and others asking if other GTHA municipalities should be following suit.

Mississauga, Brampton and Toronto officials have told CityNews they are not currently considering shutting down any outdoor amenities.

However, on Thursday Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city would re-examine the issue.

Risks of getting COVID-19 during outdoor activities ‘negligible’
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert with the University Health Network (UHN), says Ontarians need to put everything into perspective when it comes to the personal decisions they make surrounding outdoor activities they’re willing to undertake “that align with the stay at home orders.”

“I think that if you’re outdoors and you’re physically distant from others, the risk of transmission of COVID-19, especially if people are masked in those settings, is negligible,” he said. “I think it’s very reasonable to get outside and get some exercise, get some fresh air.”

Earlier this week, mayors and chairs from the 11 largest municipal governments across the GTHA all expressed their support for extra public health measures mandated by the province, including only leaving the house for essentials activities that include exercise.

When asked at a press conference earlier this week, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said there had to be balance when making decisions about closing outdoor activities such as toboggan hills and skating rinks, citing mental health benefits of outdoor exercise.

But Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua said the decision for the latest closures was based on what they know at the moment to be true about the fast spread of COVID-19.

“When you look at the message that the province has been given and the message has been to stay home, essentially the numbers are skyrocketing where we’re facing essentially a crisis here,” he said. “And so, you know, you need to do all that you can to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. And when you get large gatherings of people, you’re actually increasing (risk).”