Kingston’s public health unit advises CRCA to open trails if COVID-19 numbers stay stable

KFL&A Public Health is advising that Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority reopen their trails if Kingston's COVID-19 numbers remain low. Google Street View

Kingston’s medical officer of health says he penned a letter to the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CRCA), advising it to reopen trails that it closed last week over novel coronavirus concerns.

“They had appropriate and reasonable concerns about the use of their facilities, whether it’s going to enhance social gatherings,” Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer for health for KFL&A Public Health, said about the CRCA’s decision to close trails.

The CRCA announced the closure of its many trails across the region on April 7 out of fear of increased use and some people not adhering to social-distancing rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Kingston-area trails to close after reports of some not practising social distancing

The decision, however, was made without consulting public health in the first place.

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When asked whether the CRCA considered that closing its trails might have funnelled many of its users onto the few remaining trails in the city, such as the K&P Trail or the waterfront trail, the CRCA said the decision was made with the safety of its staff and those using the trails in mind.

“We are following the provincial directive to close communal, public/private outdoor recreational spaces and public health direction to stay home. Along with other conservation authorities who have closed their trails and municipalities we are discouraging traffic at gathering places, similar to the closure of provincial parks as of March 19, 2020,” CRCA said in a statement sent to Global News last week.

COVID-19 numbers in Kingston have been more or less stable for the last two weeks. Moore said public health has been ramping up testing and opening testing criteria to anyone showing respiratory symptoms or symptoms that may be related to the disease, and still, case numbers have stayed in the 50s (total case numbers remain at 55 Wednesday afternoon, with 45 of those cases deemed resolved).

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Moore said that if the numbers continue to lay low, he has suggested trails should be open to the public.

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I have advised at the CRCA that from a public health vantage point, we do see the value of allowing people to access trails for physical fitness, for mental fitness, to get back to nature, to have some semblance of normalcy,” Moore said on Wednesday.

He said that if CRCA does reopen its trails, public health officials will work with them to do so safely.

“We’ve given recommendations for signage that they could put up for hand hygiene and to maintain physical distancing. We’ve offered to have some of our staff inspectors visit. And if there’s been any concerns raised on these facilities or locations regarding social gatherings, and we’ll want to work with them on any enforcement,” Moore said.

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CRCA said they appreciated Moore’s recommendations, and would be considering them at their next board meeting on April 22.

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