Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward continues urging the provincial government to “follow the science.”
It’s now been a full week since she joined mayors throughout the Region of Halton, as well as regional chair Gary Carr, in penning a letter that calls for a safe reopening of outdoor activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their joint statement said that outdoor activities done safely, with physical distancing and masking precautions in place, are “a necessary support to physical and mental health, especially during this prolonged period of lockdown.”
“We’re not in jail in our house,” said Meed Ward, “we are allowed to go out in our neighbourhoods and get fresh air and exercise.”
Most neighbourhoods in Burlington, she stressed, “are within walking distance of one of those amenities, whether it’s a pickleball court or a basketball court, a sports field.”
Meed Ward added that the outdoor restrictions are “disproportionately affecting low-income, marginalized communities,” where residents may not have the same access to safe outdoor spaces.
“We’re all in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat,” said Meed Ward. “Some people are drowning and some people are lucky enough to have a yacht.”
Last week, the province’s science advisers suggested Ontario could safely reopen many outdoor recreational facilities even if it extends a stay-at-home order.
The scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said outdoor activities like golf, tennis and beach volleyball are low-risk as long as there are “no unfortunate byproducts” of the activity.
“There’s always a possibility to create safe outdoor spaces as long as you actually prevent what the premier was saying about these parties, you know, doing something except playing golf and having a beer somewhere or whatever, ” Dr. Peter Juni told Global News.
Juni was one of many in the science table that did not agree with the closures from the Doug Ford government that shut down some outdoor facilities used for exercise.
The provincial stay-at-home order imposed last month closed thousands of business and outdoor recreational facilities. While playgrounds were allowed to open, sports fields, parks and other amenities remain off-limits.
The table has suggested the restrictions would harm some children and those who don’t have access to a personal green space.
The statement from Halton’s mayors and regional chair stresses that guidance provided by the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table for Ontario, and endorsed by the Ontario Medical Association, encourages safe outdoor activities.
If the concern is about people gathering around outdoor amenities, added Meed Ward, “we can control that, we’ve got physical distancing bylaws and bylaw officers.”