Golf, tennis, other outdoor sports to open across Ontario as part of 3-step reopening plan

  • Premier Doug Ford is set to provide an update on the province’s latest reopening plan at 3 p.m. EST. You can watch that live in the player above.

Golf, tennis, basketball and other outdoor sports are set to reopen across the province on Saturday as part of a three-step plan aimed at gradually allowing for more indoor and outdoor activities to resume by the end of summer. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced details on Thursday, as Ontario continues to see signs that point to the devastating third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic receding. 

Under the new plan, restrictions will be eased gradually though June, July and August based on vaccination rates and key public health and health-care indicators.  

The current stay-at-home order will remain in place until June 2, with the exception of these newly-announced changes to some outdoor activities. 

Ford said the changes are the result of current restrictions.

“These measures have worked,” he said. 

“We are seeing increasingly positive trends in key public health indicators.”

The three phases of the province’s plan are: 

  • Phase one: An initial focus on resuming outdoor activities with smaller crowds where the risk of transmission is lower. This includes allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, outdoor dining with up to four people per table and non-essential retail at 15 per cent capacity. 
  • Phase two: Further expanding outdoor activities and resuming limited indoor services with small numbers of people. This includes outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, outdoor sports and leagues, personal care services as well as indoor religious services, rites or ceremony gatherings at 15 per cent capacity. All indoor gatherings in this phase will require face coverings. 
  • Phase three: Expanding access to indoor settings, with restrictions, including where there are large numbers of people and where face coverings can’t always be worn. This includes indoor sports and recreational fitness, indoor dining, museums, art galleries, libraries, casinos and bingo halls, with capacity limits.

Phase 1 set to start week of June 13 

The province says it will remain in each step of its plan for at least 21 days to evaluate any impacts on key public indicators. If at the end of the 21 days, the following vaccination thresholds have been met, along with positive trends in other key public health and health system indicators, then the province will move to the next step:

  • Step 1: 60 per cent of adults vaccinated with one dose.
  • Step 2: 70 per cent of adults vaccinated with one dose and 20 per cent vaccinated with two doses.
  • Step 3: 70 to 80 per cent of adults vaccinated with one dose and 25 per cent vaccinated with two doses.

Currently, the province says 58.5 per cent of Ontarians aged 18 and over have been given first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says phase one of the reopening plan is set to start the week of June 14 if key indicators are met. 

Meanwhile, as of May 22 the following outdoor activities can reopen if they follow select safety criteria:

  • Parks and recreational areas 
  • Baseball diamonds
  • Batting cages
  • Soccer, football and sports fields 
  • Tennis courts
  • Basketball courts
  • BMX parks 
  • Skate parks 
  • Golf courses
  • Frisbee golf 
  • Cycling tracks and bike trails
  • Horse riding facilities
  • Shooting ranges 
  • Ice rinks 
  • Playgrounds 
  • Boat and watercraft launches
  • Archery ranges
  • Other winter sport activities 

Ontario’s control over pandemic improving, modelling suggests

This comes as health officials say the province’s control over the pandemic is improving due to current health measures. 

Officials with Ontario’s science advisory table presented their latest COVID-19 modelling data on Thursday, suggesting that maintaining progress with vaccinations and maintaining some public health measures until mid-June can “help ensure a good summer.” 

They also said reopening schools will create an increase in cases that may be manageable, and that outdoor activities should be encouraged. 

“The public health measures, no matter how taxing and frustrating, have helped stop the spread,” Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the science table, said at Thursday’s news conference.

“If we’re careful and cautious, we can maintain this momentum.”

Dr. Peter Jüni, scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said this morning that he supports a sector-by-sector reopening to prevent “region hopping.”

In an interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Jüni said he believes that restrictions on most outdoor activities, not including patio dining, should be lifted before June 2.

“We are in a much better place than we were a few weeks ago,” he said, noting that cases and hospitalizations are dropping.

Jüni added that he is in favour of reopening schools after the stay-at-home order ends.

“A lot of kids are struggling, a lot of families are struggling,” he said. If the province can vaccinate as many education workers and parents of school-aged children as possible by then, opening schools could be done safely, he continued.

“That is possible. That is within reach. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing right now.”

‘We’re not out of the woods yet,’ says hospital association

Meanwhile, in a letter to the premier’s office, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) said that any new approach “should be based on evidence and clear metrics and driven by the continued need to ensure that any ongoing transmission is limited.”

OHA board chair Sarah Downey and president Anthony Dale cautioned that current public health measures are working to combat the third wave, “but we’re not out of the woods yet.”

“ICU occupancy remains high and variants of concern pose significant risk,” the letter said. “Maintaining high testing rates and quickly identifying contacts to prevent outbreaks will remain crucial.”

Experts have warned the province’s current level of testing is a problem.

The OHA recommended that “low transmission environments” such as golf courses, tennis courts and playgrounds should open first, before moving to ease restrictions on activities like outdoor dining.

That’s in line with recommendations from the Ontario Medical Association, which recommended opening outdoor amenities last week.

However, the Ford government voted against an NDP motion this week to reopen outdoor facilities.

The last things to open should be crowded indoor environments like restaurants and gyms, the OHA recommends.

The OHA also called for travel restrictions to remain in place, with an eye on allowing for more domestic travel first, and said that specific vaccination targets should be in place for specific high-risk communities.

As for schools, they should be the “first to open and the last to close, supported by a scientific and evidence-based approach to policy decisions.”

The province hasn’t said whether students will return to in-class learning before the end of the school year.

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