Ottawa Public Health is reviewing if it needs further restrictions at city parks after the Ontario Progressive Conservative government on Friday ordered the closure of park activities, such as playgrounds and basketball courts, to prevent the rampant spread of COVID-19.
Up until Premier Doug Ford announced the new restrictions, the local health unit had been preparing an order to make people wear masks in park amenities after officials became more worried about groups forming around basketball courts, skate parks and playgrounds.
Dr. Brent Moloughney, the OPH deputy medical officer of health, said the health unit’s approach to parks has been designed to recognize the importance of people’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Moloughney said OPH was prepared to issue an order for mandatory masks and capacity limits for amenities with crowding concerns, but new local rules won’t be immediately required because of the provincial directive.
Asked if he believes the provincial government went overboard with restrictions on park activities, Moloughney said it was a decision the province made based on its own analysis and he left the the door open to OPH potentially adding its own order.
The city and the health unit, during a late-afternoon press conference, were still waiting for details about the provincial regulations.
“We’ll need to see which amenities are, in fact, included,” Moloughney said.
“If there are some amenities that we have identified that we also thought needed either capacity limits or mandatory masking that the province is going to remain open, then we’ll look at a (local public health) order to do that, but we really need to see the regulation to see what the province has ordered.”
There was no information yet on how the city intended to keep people off park amenities.
It appears people will still be allowed to be in parks — just the recreational activities inside the parks will be off limits.
The city was waiting to see many details of the new provincial order to understand how it will impact its operations, especially in areas of enforcement.
City officials, however, were quickly able to get answers about one important issue for the municipal government.
The City of Ottawa’s major projects, including the $4.6-billion expansion of the O-Train network, can continue despite the province’s order to shut down non-essential construction work, according to Mayor Jim Watson, who noted both transit and roads projects are being considered essential under the provincial regulations.
The province also considers homebuilding as essential, but not construction of malls, hotels and office towers.
Watson said the transit and roads projects “are vitally important to our wellbeing here in the City of Ottawa and obviously to the wellbeing to those people who are relying on transit.”