The programs Toronto suspended involve registered and instructional programs including learn-to-skate and learn-to-swim programs, hockey games and scrimmages, drop-in sports programs, table tennis, billiards and foosball.
Access to the City’s two conservatories is closed as of Tuesday, and the City will no longer be issuing indoor permits for social gatherings, sports, games and group fitness.
About 1,500 City staff will be affected by the changes to recreational programming. Some staff will be reassigned to new shifts, and, wherever possible, affected staff will be offered alternative work.
Toronto Public Health has recently investigated confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to recreational activities, said Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s associate medical officer of health.
The investigations included a case among a young elite athlete hockey league and several cases among adults who play recreational hockey in Toronto.
TPH has also investigated cases and outbreaks in gyms and fitness centres in Toronto, in which staff, instructors and patrons have been infected, in one case further exposing two people at a golf tournament, Dubey said.
Some of these outbreaks have had as many as 100 contacts to trace.
“COVID-19 can spread in fitness classes because it is difficult to exercise while wearing a mask and more than six feet of physical distancing may be required between participants to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets while exercising,” Dubey said.
“Social gatherings before or after class also contribute to spread.”
Speaking at an afternoon press conference from City Hall, de Villa said that the knowledge and experienced gained fighting the virus so far has led to changes in the way this second withdrawal of services is being conducted.
For example, in the Spring, fitness and playground equipment were strictly off-limits.
“We do know more and we know that at this point, there is less of a concern around playgrounds,” de Villa said.
“Back in the Spring, we were less familiar (with the virus) and we had reasons to be concerned and so we took a very precautionary approach. Now, recognizing that the virus really is primarily spread through that direct close contact with infected individuals, that’s less of a concern.
“I’m happy to say that we are now actively encouraging people to maintain physical activity, to get exercise and, in particular, to do so outdoors where the risk of virus transmission is significantly reduced.”
Mayor John Tory said he has asked City staff to work towards developing supplementary outdoor activities that people can take part in safely during the fall and winter.
All outdoor amenities in parks and green spaces, including sports fields, skate parks, trails, BMX parks, tennis courts, basketball courts and picnic shelters remain open.
Leisure-lane swimming and skating remain open. The City will still provide after-school recreation care, December camps for children and drop-in programs for youth that don’t include indoors sports and training.
Outdoor permits will be honoured.
Outdoor hockey has not yet been affected, but the season is not scheduled to begin until Nov. 30.
Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags