Ontario could reopen more outdoor spaces, science table advisor says

By The Canadian Press

Ontario’s science advisors say the province could safely reopen many outdoor recreational facilities even if it extends a stay-at-home order in the coming weeks.

The scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table says outdoor activities like golf, tennis and beach volleyball are low risk.

Dr. Peter Juni says that in some cases, if physical distancing cannot be maintained during the activity, people should wear masks.

Juni says public health officials must address activities linked with the sports — like car-pooling or sharing a locker room — which represent greater risk of COVID-19 exposure.

The province imposed a stay-at-home order last month that closed thousands of business and outdoor recreational facilities, except playgrounds.

The science table criticized the restriction of outdoor activities, saying they will not control COVID-19 and disproportionately harm children and those who don’t have access to their own green space.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that the province was considering extending the stay-at-home order, which would mean the outdoor facilities would likely remain closed.

The province’s top doctor said he would like to see “well below 1,000” daily cases before Ontario lifts the stay-at-home order. Dr. David Williams stressed that while the province is bending the pandemic curve, it has not brought the numbers down far enough.

Ontario reported 2,073 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 15 additional deaths from the virus.

The case numbers were based on more than 28,100 tests completed since the last daily report.

The province said there are currently 1,782 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 802 in intensive care units.

Meanwhile, people with at-risk health conditions in Ontario became eligible to book their COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday. That includes people with dementia, diabetes and sickle cell disease.

Another group of people who cannot work from home including grocery store, restaurant and transportation workers also became eligible to book a shot.

Starting Thursday, anyone 40 or older will be able to book a shot anywhere in the province.

The government said it has been able to expand eligibility to more age groups because it is expecting to receive millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks.

Ontario said it expects 65 per cent of adults to have their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May.

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