Drum circle held at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto with little distancing or mask usage
It's been several long months since Trinity Bellwoods made headlines for being the gathering spot of choice for drunken young people who refused to heed public health advice, and now it seems a different group is drawing attention to the infamous park.
As cases of COVID-19 in Toronto continue to rise exponentially, photos of a drum circle that took place in Bellwoods this past weekend show a crowd of people dancing close to one another with little-to-no social distancing or mask usage in place.
Drum circles have been taking place in Trinity Bellwoods for years now and have become a beloved weekend activity for the more free-spirited of the city's residents, but their continuation throughout the pandemic is drawing criticsm from some who say the gatherings are unsafe.
"Has bylaw enforcement ceased altogether?" asked one Toronto resident on Twitter Monday morning. "I saw a maskless drum circle dance party at Bellwoods yesterday. Selfish people keeping smaller groups and families from enjoying the park. Infuriating."
Earlier this month, as case numbers began to rise, the Ontario government introduced smaller gathering limits throughout the province to try and curb the spread of the virus.
While the original Stage 3 limits allowed for gatherings of 50 people inside and 100 outside, the updated guidelines allow just 10 people at an indoor private event or gathering and 25 people at an outdoor private event or gathering.
The former gathering limits still apply for organized events and gatherings held within businesses and facilities operating in accordance with Ontario's reopening rules, but all other events held in private residences, backyards, parks, and other recreation areas are considered private gatherings and are therefore subject to the stricter limits.
These gatherings are also expected to include physical distancing between anyone who is not from the same household.
And yet, photos from this past weekend's drum circle show far more than 25 people gathered together, with hardly any distance maintained between participants.
Has bylaw enforcement ceased altogether? I saw a maskless drum circle dance party at Bellwoods yesterday. Selfish people keeping smaller groups and families from enjoying the park. Infuriating. pic.twitter.com/GpbAs459Oi— Tyler Munro (@tylermunro) September 28, 2020
When asked about Toronto Public Health's stance on the drum circle, Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vinita Dubey said residents are encouraged to spend time outdoors but are expected to follow public health measures while doing so.
"Toronto Public Health (TPH) encourages residents to go outside for fresh air, exercise, and to take part in activities that are good for overall physical and mental health, while following public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19," she said.
"Toronto residents are expected to follow provincial and municipal regulations and bylaws for both organized and private gatherings, that are held both indoors and outdoors."
In an email, Dr. Dubey reiterated the specific gathering limits that are currently in place and also said the city's bylaw on physical distancing in city parks and squares as well as the mandatory mask or face covering bylaw for indoor public spaces remain in effect.
"COVID-19 continues to spread in the community. With community transmission and a recent resurgence of cases, we all have to be aware that in all situations, there is a risk for coming into contact with someone who is contagious with COVID-19," said Dr. Dubey.
"Everyone is reminded to adopt these steps for self-protection: as much as possible limit contact with anyone you don't live with; as often as possible, keep at least six feet apart from people you don't live with; as often as possible, wear a mask when outside your home, especially in indoor settings and when physical distancing is difficult; wash your hands frequently; and remain at home when ill."
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