Toronto residents who crowded into Trinity Bellwoods Park on the weekend should monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms over the next two weeks, the city’s medical officer of health recommends.
Dr. Eileen de Villa said if any symptoms develop in that time, then the residents should get tested.De Villa said people who were at the popular park on Saturday, while they are monitoring themselves, should also consider staying away from those most at risk of developing complications of the disease. The park is between Dundas Street West and Queen Street West.
And she said they should maintain physical distancing and wear non-medical masks when it is not possible to keep two metres away from others.
“If you were one of these people, it is possible that you may have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 infection, but with little or no symptoms, especially if you were within six feet of others having face-to-face conversations,” De Villa said at a city hall news conference on Monday.
“Because of this, it is important that you monitor yourself carefully for COVID-19 symptoms for the next 14 days. If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, please go and get tested immediately.”
Those most vulnerable to COVID-19 are elderly people and people with chronic health conditions.
De Villa added: “Even if you are not worried about becoming sick yourself, we all need to remember that our actions have an impact on other people in our community.
“You may feel healthy and have no symptoms, but you can still have COVID-19 and be contagious. While you are out with your friends you can unknowingly spread the virus,” de Villa said.
“It can then spread further, possibly to a more vulnerable person who is at risk of serious complications from COVID-19 or at risk of dying. This could be anybody — your friends, your neighbours, your parents, your loved ones.”
Medical officer says city has 177 new COVID-19 cases
De Villa reported that Toronto has 177 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the cumulative total to 10,212.
A total of 761 people have died of the disease, while a total of 7,509 have recovered, an increase of 112 from Sunday.
Some 377 are in hospital with 91 in intensive care units. The city has had 141 outbreaks in institutions, which includes long-term care homes, retirement homes and hospitals.
De Villa noted that COVID-19 has an incubation period, and if the testing is done too soon, there is a risk that the test might be negative because it might not pick up the potential infection.
“It’s always in the timing,” she said.
According to Toronto Public Health data, people who develop COVID-19 symptoms are taking an average of five days to get tested after symptoms first present themselves, De Villa added.
“This is very concerning,” she said. “That’s valuable time that we would like to see shortened.”
De Villa reminded Toronto residents that symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever, cough, difficulty breathing, unexplained fatigue, a headache, sore throat, runny nose that does not fit with a typical seasonal allergies, loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain.
Mayor vows to monitor himself for symptoms
Mayor John Tory, who also spoke at the news conference, said he got a “tongue-lashing” from his daughter, who is a doctor, for going to Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday and failing to wear his mask properly when he talked to people there.
On Sunday, he apologized, saying he went there to determine why the situation was happening.
Asked if he should self-monitor as well, Tory said he accepts the advice of De Villa.
“I would, of course, engage in that self-monitoring. I will accept the medical advice as given,” he said.
“I think people respect honesty and they respect forthrightness. They respect quickly when you acknowledge that you have made a mistake. I’m a human being.”
Tory said there will be a review of “all aspects of what went on” in the park and the city will keep an eye on Trinity Bellwoods to ensure people do not gather there in large numbers again during the pandemic.
“We’re obviously going to be keeping a close eye on that park and making sure that the kind of thing we saw happen on Saturday doesn’t happen again, weekday or weekend,” Tory said. “There will be constant vigilance with respect to that park.”
The mayor added that large crowds in parks seems to be an issue on Saturdays.
Earlier on Monday, Dr. David Fisman, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto who has been tracking the spread of the novel coronavirus all year, said he is concerned that the crowds that gathered in the park on Saturday could drive a resurgence of COVID-19 in the city.
Fisman said the young people who gathered at the park may not wind up being getting seriously ill, but they could unwittingly infect others who are more at-risk.
“The disease doesn’t stay stuck to 20 and 30-year olds,” he told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.
COVID-19’s ability to hide in the body means it could be 10 to 14 days before those in the park develop symptoms, if they were infected. Those aged 20 to 40 make up about 25 per cent of all confirmed cases in Toronto, but those in that age range are far less likely, data shows, to die or require hospitalization.
On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a blunt message to those who were in the park: “Why don’t you do us all a favour and go get tested now?”
City officials are continuing to warn those caught violating its physical distancing bylaws risk heavy fines.
“Any two or more people who are not members of the same household, and who fail to keep at least two metres of distance between them in a park or public square, can receive a $1,000 ticket,” the city said in a news release.
However, just four tickets were issued in Trinity Bellwoods on Saturday. There were 14 issued city-wide.
On Sunday, the city received 89 complaints about people who are using outdoor amenities that remain closed or who are not practising physical distancing in parks or squares. Bylaw officers issued 25 tickets.
The city said enforcement officers have spoken to more than 5,250 people in parks about the closures and public health measures.
‘Enforcement is very challenging’
Carleton Grant, executive director of the city’s municipal and standards, said the focus of the city’s enforcement team was on education on Saturday.
“Enforcement is very challenging. The crowds were very large. We made a lot of good adjustments so that we were better prepared on Sunday. Saturday, we really spent our time educating, with the large crowds and the number of staff we had there,” Grant said.
“We increased our presence on Sunday. We were there early. We did a lot of awareness and education at the start and that proved successful. We will continue to implement that strategy moving forward during the week and as we gear up for the weekend.”
Meanwhile, city staff released a plan to add 25 kilometres of bike lanes throughout the city to provide more space for people to physically distance and get around safely. The full list of bike lane additions is here.
On Monday, Ontario reported 404 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. It’s unclear at this time how many of those are in Toronto.