It doesn’t matter who you speak to, the sea of people at Trinity Bellwoods Park over the weekend was a cause for concern. While some of those seen mingling in the sunshine at the popular downtown park appeared to wear face masks, the majority gathered in groups of more than five people and their picnic blankets were far from six-feet apart.
But in a city that’s filled with condos and small and over-crowded apartments — many without proper air conditioning, mind you — not to mention limited green space, where are people supposed to go once the hot weather arrives?
This isn’t to say the actions of those who flocked to the park are admissible (far from it), but it does present the opportunity for the City to come up with a viable solution to the matter at hand.
As such, Mayor John Tory – who has since issued an apology since being spotted in the park neither social distancing nor properly wearing his face mask – has said the City is now exploring the idea of painting social distancing circles on the grass in Toronto parks to encourage physical distancing amid the pandemic.
Mayor Tory made the comments at a news conference on Monday after the large groups of people were seen gathered at Trinity Bellwoods Park over the weekend, much to the dismay of many Toronto residents who have been heeding public health orders by staying at home to keep their distance to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Similar solutions are currently in parks in San Francisco and Brooklyn, where social distancing circles, which measure roughly six feet in diameter, are painted six feet apart from each other. Crews painted the circles ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, offering residents the proper space to enjoy the nice weather, while still adhering to the physical distancing orders currently in place.
A park in New York City has taken social distancing to the next level by drawing circles to ensure social distancing!
Noam Galai | Getty pic.twitter.com/EENyyxawJ8
— JustTravel 🗺 (@JustTraveI) May 18, 2020
Tory added that the recommendations regarding the circles, if approved, would be implemented as soon as possible, most likely before the weekend when more people have the time to roam public spaces.
At this time, it’s unclear which of the City’s approximately 1,500 public parks could see the addition of the social distancing circles, but it’s safe to assume it would be more popular downtown spots like Trinity Bellwoods, which was previously dubbed as a “hot spot.”
While this is a great short-term solution to the problem, it does point out that there’s a bigger issue at hand: there’s a lack of public space downtown for residents to enjoy. The City is in the works of making additional space that will allow residents to distance available through ActiveTO, however, with daily COVID case numbers still increasing, the City needs to come up with a better solution for residents fast so what happened at Trinity over the weekend doesn’t continue to happen.
Otherwise, it’s going to be a very long and frustrating summer for everyone in Toronto.