Just when you thought there was nothing left to close in Guelph, the City has announced that they are closing all playgrounds in the Royal City as well as the fenced-in dog park, the skate park, and other outdoor rec facilities upon the advice of the Medical Officer of Health. The closures will take effect immediately.
“We continue to follow the advice of our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Mercer, and today her direction is to close all outdoor play structures, our skate park and our fenced dog park,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement. “We have to take physical distancing seriously to protect our individual health and the health of our community. The City will continue to implement the recommendations of our local health unit as they come.”
In a statement from the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Nicola Mercer is strongly recommending an expansion of closures in the wake of the first case of community transmission of COVID-19 in Wellington County.
“I would like to recognize the many businesses that have changed their hours and operations to control the spread of this disease,” Dr. Mercer said. “Additionally, many individuals and families have changed their habits and are practicing social distancing to keep themselves and others safe.
“However, not everyone is taking these important actions and at this critical moment stricter measures are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to save lives,” Dr. Mercer added. “I am recommending the closure of all personal service businesses, outdoor play areas and event venues within Wellington County, Dufferin County and the City of Guelph.”
Along with playgrounds and the like, Dr. Mercer is directing her recommendation to hair and nail salons, tattoo parlours, barber shops, cosmetic clinics, gyms, massage clinics, banquet halls and conference centres. Trails and green spaces not among the recommended closures.
While health professionals have said that spending time outside is permissible in the midst of pandemic preparedness, people are still encouraged to practice social distancing even while they’re outdoors. A social media post shared by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie on Twitter Sunday caused many in public health to become concerned that the general public didn’t understand that.
Here in Guelph, the City’s closure applies to all play equipment in over 80 parks throughout the Royal City, all tennis courts and the fenced-in leash free dog facility at Peter Misersky Park will be locked to bar access, and the skate park will be closed to everyone no matter how many wheels they’re on. The City provided no end date in terms of when the restrictions might be lifted.
“We’re doing our best to keep you safe and we need your help in following the recommendations of our Medical Officer of Health,” added Chief Administrative Officer Scott Stewart. “Please do not use play structures, and if you’re enjoying some outdoor time at parks remember to keep a safe physical distance of two metres from others—no contact sports or large gatherings.”
The City of Guelph’s announcement Monday morning follows a similar move by the Grand River Conservation Authority Sunday afternoon. Effective Monday, all GRCA parks are closed to everyone, including members, until April 6, and those that enter the park during that time will be considered trespassers and may be subject to fines.
“We are urging the community to respect the closures,” says Lisa Stocco, Manager of Communications in a statement. “With the gates closed, and limited staff, we are reminding the public that it will make it difficult for emergency services personnel to assist people within the parks in the event of an emergency. Anyone who chooses to ignore the closure is putting their own safety, and potentially the safety of others at risk.”
Last week, the GRCA already took the precaution to cancel all public activities and closing their Nature Centres. GRCA said that they may also reassess the closure of their parks to extend past April 6.