By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Crowded beaches last week and over the weekend drew frustration from local councillors and Toronto Public Health, and a littered beach only added to the concern.
After a week of gradual Stage 1 opening, more residents visited the city’s beaches to enjoy the weather – but Toronto Public Health warns that COVID-19 protocols still remain in place as the city slowly enters Stage 2 of reopening this week.
“While we know that there is less risk for COVID-19 to spread in outdoor settings, we also know that it continues to circulate through out city,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen De Villa said. “We all have to keep doing our part as we continue moving forward.”
“This means staying home if you are sick, maintaining a physical distance of six feet from others, wearing a cloth mask especially when we can’t consistently be six feet from others, and washing our hands often. I also strongly recommend wearing a cloth mask in all indoor public spaces to protect others from your germs. This will continue to be our new reality as we live with COVID-19,” she added.
The scenes at Toronto’s beaches, especially here in the Beach community, didn’t reflect that new reality.
“The behaviour and garbage on the beach this weekend was shocking,” Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford said.
“The level of disregard we saw, not only for the critical need to maintain physical distance but even the basics of picking up after yourself, was completely unacceptable. This is all made worse in the context of a global pandemic where most of the world is making massive sacrifices for the good of their communities.”
Bradford said while he was picking up garbage two weeks ago, the problem has “deepened.” Bylaw officers and Toronto police were previously on patrol of the local beaches to enforce physical distancing and other rules.
But the lack of physical distancing coupled with piles of litter left scattered across the beaches has prompted the city to take action – additional bylaw officers and Toronto police officers will be issuing tickets to people ignoring physical distancing rules, littering, and other “anti-social” behaviour like starting fires.
“This is starting now and will be ramped-up over the coming weekend,” Bradford said.
Disposable bins are available at park grounds and beaches, De Villa suggests the public report any litter hot spots to 311.
The city is also looking at ways to improve general beach maintenance, including looking at changing staffing shifts, use of different equipment, and garbage pickup.
More signs are also expected to be installed informing people to not litter and follow physical distancing guidelines.
“Again – I can’t reiterate enough – the only way we fundamentally fix this is to have people clean up after themselves,” Bradford said.
- Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.