TORONTO, ON., May 24, 2020 — Last night the City of Toronto released a statement expressing their thoughts and concerns about the social media images posted yesterday afternoon of thousands of people gathered in Trinity Bellwoods Park. For the few who did not see or hear about it, the scene resembled a Lollapalooza or Glastonbury (minus the mud) rock festival.
The City of Toronto statement said it was unacceptable to have gatherings of this size, where people aren’t keeping their distance from others, and they are running the risk of setting Toronto back significantly in its efforts to stop the transmission of COVID-19.
Toronto police Constable Alex Li told a CP24 reporter that “while officers were at the park throughout the day, it was difficult for police to safely go into large crowds and issue tickets.”
“More than 700 people from Toronto have tragically lost their lives due to COVID-19. Public gatherings, like today’s in Trinity Bellwoods Park, threaten to undo the difficult and challenging work residents of this city have done over the last 10 weeks in their collective effort to beat COVID-19.,” the statement reads.
Yesterday, the Toronto Public Health reported that there were 220 new cases in the City, and there have been 759 virus-related deaths, while the province’s numbers have continued to climb somewhat over the past few days since the beginning of Phase 1 of the framework for reopening the province.
“I saw a crowd scene that was completely out of control relative to what we have been saying people should do, you know there is no objection to people going to a park, to that park, it’s a big park, but they were sitting in really big groups of people and close together.”
Mayor Tory told CP24 that he he stopped by the park yesterday afternoon and asked some of the mostly young adult gatherers yesterday if they were unaware and didn’t watch or read the news. The resounding answer he received was that they aren’t at risk for getting sick and the distancing rules don’t really apply to them.
“I was just dumbfounded by this lack of personal responsiblity and by this very disappointing behaviour,” said Mayor Tory on CP24.
“We’ve gotta make sure these people do better today, said Tory. “Because everybody else in the city managed to do better.”
“They are going to have some help because more members of the police and the bylaw officers will be there today to educate them,” said Tory.
Toronto Medical Office of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa posted her concerns on Twitter. “I understand that the photos of people in Trinity Bellwoods were disappointing today,” It was a beautiful day & we all want to enjoy our city together, but this could be selfish & dangerous behaviour that could set us back.” said Dr. de Villa.
Toronto’s top doctor went on to say, “As I shared on Friday, we are seeing an increase in #COVID19: https://bit.ly/36oa1yK & lost too many loved ones. We must continue #PhysicalDistancing to keep moving forward.”
“Please keep a physical distance and do not socialize in group settings, especially indoors,” said de Villa. “Please continue to practise physical distancing, & please continue to take care of each other.”
“People are encouraged to go out, yes, but they must stay two metres apart from anyone who is not from their household. That is the science; that is what experts like Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, tell us.
The vast majority of parks across Toronto were used responsibly today. Cyclists and pedestrians got fresh air and exercise as part ActiveTO, where major roads, such as Lake Shore Boulevard and Bayview Avenue, were closed to motorists to allow people to safely get outside. The City thanks them for their efforts.
Toronto Police told CP24
Sunday morning enforcement officers and police will be extremely present
Tomorrow morning, bylaw enforcement officers and police will have a visible presence in Trinity Bellwoods Park to ensure there are no repeats of the crowds witnessed today. The physical distancing bylaw and provincial emergency order around gatherings will be strictly enforced.
The City recognizes that staying home, self-isolating, and not seeing family and friends over the last several weeks has been incredibly difficult. However, gatherings like today’s at Trinity Bellwoods Park has the potential to set Toronto back in its efforts to beat COVID-19.
Parks in Toronto have remained open throughout the pandemic. The gradual reopening of limited amenities in City parks has come with new explanatory signage, social media communications, daily updates to the City of Toronto website, and in-person education by bylaw officers and police.
The City asks residents for their continued diligence in doing the right thing to stop the spread of COVID-19: practice physical distancing by staying two metres apart from anyone you do not live with; wash your hands regularly; and use City parks and public spaces responsibly.
with notes from City of Toronto