Ottawa advisors join call to reopen outdoor sports facilities in Ontario
OTTAWA – Ottawa advisers are increasingly supporting the reopening of golf courses and other outdoor recreation spaces like tennis courts, which were closed after Ontario imposed a stay-at-home order across the province in an attempt to limit the increase in COVID-19 cases.
Golf in April should be a sensational start to the season, but instead all courses in Ontario have been closed. This is not what Steve Spratt, owner of Falcon Ridge Golf Club expected.
âWe did everything right last year and thought we were going to continue the same way this year,â says Spratt, who has managed the course for over 20 years. âLast year we were very busy and we did everything safely. We haven’t had any incidents here; in fact in Ontario there were 20 million golfers, no case of COVID came from a golf course. “
As provincial officials announced a four-week extension of the stay-at-home order on April 16, golf courses, as well as outdoor recreation areas such as tennis courts and baseball diamonds have been closed. Playgrounds were also banned, but that decision was quickly overturned after a public appeal.
Calls have been made to reopen golf courses, a petition has more than 91,000 signatures asking the province to reconsider what many consider a physically remote and safe outdoor sport.
Ottawa Councilor Diane Deans also supports the reopening of the golf courses and plans to send a letter to Premier Doug Ford hoping he will reconsider the closure.
âI don’t think allowing people to access a golf course in an appropriate and socially remote way will lead to worse health outcomes,â says Deans. “Any outdoor activity that can be done in a safe manner should be allowed, so whether it’s tennis or pickleball, any recreational activity, I think, should allow that to happen for the health and well- be our citizens. “
However, Mayor Jim Watson said Thursday he did not sign the letter because the city’s medical officer of health, Dr Vera Etches, said outdoor recreational facilities should remain closed.
âAs mayor, I have a responsibility to support our medical officer of health,â Watson told CTV Morning Live. “His advice at this point is that these types of activities should remain closed.”
Deans says other city councilors are ready to lend their voices and hopes officials from surrounding municipalities will too. While Deans understands the need for restrictions and that decisions about what to close can be complicated, she adds that the rules must be fair, evidence-based, have scientific merit and lead to better health outcomes. .
âIf you don’t do that job people start to question the rules and I think that’s where we are now with golf,â says Deans.
Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said with the current workload and increased pressure on hospitals, a regional reopening is not yet likely.
âWe have to keep lowering the levels so that we can open schools, for example, in the first place,â says Dr Etches. “It’s a little too early to talk about lifting the restrictions, but it will come, and we are particularly thinking about when can we reopen the schools.”
The Ontario stay-at-home order is expected to end on May 20.