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Summer in Toronto means swimming in public pools, but maybe not this year, expert says

For many, summer in Toronto means swimming in outdoor pools with the sun shining overhead. For others, it means doing laps in indoor pools that are usually a little quieter in the summer months.

And for still others, it means going to the beach, laying down a towel, putting up a big umbrella, and wading into the cool waters of Lake Ontario with pebbles under your feet.

But this year, given the pandemic, opportunities to take a dip in either indoor or outdoor public pools on hot humid days are looking a little slim.

All indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools and spas, splash pads, spray pads, wading pools and water slides are closed under provincial emergency orders extended until June 9.

Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and an associate professor of pediatrics at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said people who want to swim in public pools this summer may not get the chance.

“I don’t see pools opening this summer,” she said.

“If we’re still having the general idea that we’re supposed to be physically distancing, I think it’s impossible — the physical distancing in a pool with a bunch of kids playing. I don’t see that opening up.”

Banerji said the other issue is surfaces in pool change rooms.

“Are you going to be sanitizing a change room every time there’s a new group of kids coming through? And how are you going to keep kids from talking to each other or minding physical distance in the change room?”

Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, says: ‘I don’t see pools opening this summer.’ (CBC)

There is still an opportunity to swim, however, at Toronto beaches. The city says its beaches are still open, but it doesn’t recommend swimming in Lake Ontario unless there are lifeguards in place.

In a statement on Wednesday, the city said: “Toronto beaches are open in the same way green spaces in parks have been open. Beaches are not closed under Province of Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The city noted that there is no supervised swim program, meaning there are no lifeguards working at Toronto beaches.

“Typically, this program would begin in early June when the weather and water becomes warmer. Swimming without the supervision of a lifeguard at Toronto beaches is not recommended,” the city said.

The city said people who visit beaches are expected to practise physical distancing and avoid crowding.

Under the city’s physical distancing bylaw, people who don’t live together and who fail to keep two metres apart in a city park or public square can face a $1,000 ticket.

A view of an outdoor public swimming pool in Toronto during the pandemic. (CBC)

Mayor John Tory said on Wednesday that Toronto, as a member of the international Blue Flag program, is continuing to test water quality at its beaches. Tory said enforcement officers will be on the beaches this weekend to remind sun seekers about the importance of physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We do the water testing all the time, pandemic or not, because that is part of our obligation, it’s part of our membership in the Blue Flag program in order to maintain the water quality and the quality of our beaches,” Tory said.

“That is an important element of public health and public safety as well is to make sure the water quality is as it should be,” he added.

“My information is that we will have appropriate people from the enforcement branches of the government on the beaches in the coming days, including over the weekend, to again remind people of what the physical distancing requirements and advice is and to hopefully make ensure that is being complied with.”

CBC

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