Sims: It’s time for Ontario to give the green light to the outdoors

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With the number of cases declining and vaccination rates rising, the Ontario health minister said the province would release a plan to reopen “very soon.”

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With the number of cases declining and vaccination rates rising, the Ontario health minister said the province would release a plan to reopen “very soon.”

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But how long is “soon”? Pressure is mounting on the provincial government to do anything, anything, to loosen the grip of the state of emergency now that the warm weather is here.

There was a report from Toronto on Wednesday that “soon” could arrive as early as Thursday. Independent online outlet iPolitics said after much pressure from a locked down and tired province, Premier Doug Ford will announce he is giving the green light to reopen outdoor recreational activities like golf and tennis. , probably after the Victoria Day long weekend.

All outdoor recreation spaces – except for playgrounds, which remained open after public pressure – have been on hold since April 16, when the province tightened its stay-at-home order while the third wave COVID-19 infections were mounting and hospitals faced an unprecedented wave of critical cases.

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Four weeks later, Ontario reported 1,588 new cases on Wednesday, down dramatically from the April 15 record set of 4,736. But Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams said he wouldn’t want to see a reopening until the number of cases drops below 1,000 a day.

The stay-at-home order has already been extended until June 2, but the acceleration of vaccine rollout, falling numbers and a plunging test positivity rate have raised questions about how and when the province will exit. locking.

Already this week, Provincial Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government would not revert to the confusing color-coding framework used earlier in the pandemic which created regional disparities based on the number of cases and outbreaks. without limiting migration between regions.

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Instead, there are hints of an industry-specific reopening. Elliott said the government is moving with caution “because the last thing you want is to go too fast and get into a fourth wave.

“We have to do everything to prevent this, so we are working on it. We expect it to be available very soon.

But there have already been signals that the doors are opening. Ford gave a verbal green light this week at children’s summer camps which will reopen in July – and now there’s the announcement scheduled for Thursday. Any visit to a London park will tell you that people are already enjoying the outdoors.

Camille Cartwright, left, joins her son, Cade, 4, Kaladin Pallin, 3, Olivia Cartwright, 6, Lisha Pallin, and her son, Ronan Pallin, 2, for a sunny picnic at Gibbons Park in London Tuesday.  (MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)
Camille Cartwright, left, joins her son, Cade, 4, Kaladin Pallin, 3, Olivia Cartwright, 6, Lisha Pallin, and her son, Ronan Pallin, 2, for a sunny picnic at Gibbons Park in London Tuesday. (MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)

So, it is time, says an expert, now that the compass points to the end of the pandemic, although we must be careful.

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Saverio Stranges, chair of epidemiology and biostatistics at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, said about half of Ontario’s population is already receiving at least one dose, there are signs strong from less community spread and less pressure on hospitals.

“The exterior transmission is extremely weak,” he said.

Corn he adds caution must still be exercised, especially in avoiding mass gatherings. A similar slow reopening has been underway for about a month in Western Europe, where Stranges said they have reached the stage where they can open theaters and major sporting events.

And the falling numbers in the UK and US are further proof that vaccines are working.

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More vaccines and a warm spring should ease concerns about travel to other areas. “Weather conditions and outdoor activities should really mitigate this potential risk,” Stranges said.

“We are expected to achieve very high rates of eligible people receiving the first dose over the next few weeks and this should take into account the potential increased risk of community spread due to increased mobility.”

This is news we’ve been waiting for, especially from outdoor recreation companies. Duane Swinkels, director of operations at Forest City National Golf Club, said after a grueling 2020 they were on track for a banner year when they opened on March 20, but those hopes were dashed in April with the closure.

“We could be ready in 24 hours and start golfing again. We are quite prepared. We picked up where we left off when we were open, ”he said.

Swinkels noted that last year, during the warmer months of the pandemic, there were 20 million rounds of golf played in Ontario – “and not a single case of COVID from golfing, so I think we’re in enough. security “.

Here we are, hoping that everything is safe. Soon.

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