TORONTO -- Mayor John Tory says Toronto residents should be prepared for further event closures throughout the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, for everything from Canada Day to the Santa Claus Parade.
Santa Claus waves to the crowd from his float during the Santa Claus Parade in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marta Iwanek
“They are all on the table,” Tory told CP24 Tuesday night on an episode of The Mayor, his monthly call-in show. “People may say ‘Santa Claus Parade – November!’ Well if at November we’re much better off but things are still delicate in terms of our crowd of a million people gathering out on the sides of our streets and the medical officer of health says to me that we should cancel the parade, then with deep regret – as has been the case with Pride, Caribbean Carnival, and a host of other things— then I will go to the Santa Claus Parade people and recommend that it be cancelled.” The city previously announced that all permits for mass gatherings would be cancelled through June as Toronto maintains strict social distancing guidelines to deal with pandemic. A plethora of major city events have already fallen victim to the pandemic, including major technology conferences, music festivals, the annual Toronto Pride Parade, Caribbean Carnival, and many neighbourhood cultural events.
Fireworks might still be possible Canada Day
Tory told CP24 that city officials are taking things one week, or month at a time when contemplating what might possibly have to be shut down. That means that city officials are now eyeing some of the most festive – and crowded – weekends of the summer. Officials are still mulling event closures for the July 1 celebrations. “We haven’t yet made a decision on Canada Day though all of the municipalities around us have cancelled their Canada Day festivities,” Tory said. “I am going to be searching at the very least to make sure we have a spectacular fireworks display somewhere so that everyone in the city can see it so that we can at least have that joy to see, from apartment buildings and parks and houses and so on.” Tory added that the likelihood is “quite high” that further major events will be cancelled beyond June. “I think there are going to be more events to be cancelled,” he said. “You’ve heard the premier say that it is highly unlikely he that major sports events are coming back, at least in front of a crowd, because we just can’t afford the crowd scenes.” “So I think we will take it sort of one week and one month at a time but I would say that the likelihood of some of those events being cancelled, hopefully not as far out as the Santa Claus Parade, is quite high just so we can keep people safe.”
Decision about summer camps coming soon
Summer camps are also up in the air right now and Tory said no decision has been made definitively about whether city-run summer camps might run in some form. He said trying to run summer camps while making sure that small children adhere to infection-prevention measures could be a challenge. “They don’t get as much the concept of not playing with each other the way they’re used to.” He said officials are “trying hard not to say no” to summer camps and added that he understands the city will have to make a decision soon so that parents can make arrangements for their kids accordingly.
Sports unlikely to return as usual
Responding to a question about whether major sporting events might be able to resume with some modifications sometime soon, Tory said those decisions will have to be guided by public health advice. “I am open to anything subject of public health considerations. So you do eliminate one part of the problem by having no fans in the stands but then you have to ask yourself the question after that, ‘well what about the players being in close contact with one another?’ And there aren’t any of the sports that we talked about that you mentioned that are not involving physical contact between the players. “So I think that’s something we’re going to sort of have to keep an eye on vis-à-vis the thoughts of the medical officer of health because as I’ve said, all of these things are not going to be designed on a popularity contest by the politicians involved... or on the basis of trying to satiate sports fans who are missing sports on TV.”
The Raptors have recently reached out to the city about the possibility of reopening their practice facility and Tory said that the request is being considered, but will have to be made subject to public health advice.
‘Have hope’: Tory
Despite the likelihood of a less exciting summer than most people are accustomed to, Tory urged residents to “keep hope” amid the difficulties of the pandemic. “Please have some hope. Have some hope that the people at city hall – who are doing none of these things with any joy, whether it’s cancelling events or asking you to stay home and stay away from each other – we’re doing it as part of a broader plan that will stop the growth of this virus and we are making plans every day.” “We’re spending lots of time now planning for the reopening of the city, for you getting back to work and for kids getting back to their lives, whether it’s getting back to school now or later. I’m doing this to protect people’s health and to save lives and to allow us to, when we get back to reopening the city, to keep it open and not to have to close it again.”