City exploring circles painted on grass to ease physical distancing, mayor says

The city is exploring the idea of circles painted on grass in Toronto parks to encourage physical distancing amid the pandemic, Mayor John Tory says.

'Social distancing circles' now in place in 2 parks in San Francisco, New York City

People gather inside circles in Dolores Park in San Francisco on Sunday. The circles are designed to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 by encouraging physical distancing. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

The city is exploring the idea of circles painted on grass in Toronto parks to encourage physical distancing amid the pandemic, Mayor John Tory says

They're known as "social distancing circles" and the idea is gaining ground online.

Large white circles are now in place in parks in at least two U.S. cities, namely at Dolores Park in San Francisco and Domino Park in Brooklyn, New York City.

Tory made the comments at a news conference on Monday after thousands of people gathered at Trinity Bellwoods Park on the weekend, much to the dismay of many Toronto residents who have been heeding public health directives to keep their distance to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"The idea of social distancing circles is under active consideration by our staff as are a host of other matters and we've asked them to come back with a plan that includes considerations of policing and enforcement, that includes considerations of how you can help people to physically distance themselves in parks and other public spaces," Tory told reporters at city hall.

"I would expect in the next couple of days, because that's what I've requested, that we will have a report from our officials from all different aspects of the city on how we can make things better and be better in a position to deal with things like this if they come up, going forward in the nice weather and generally."

Tory said he hopes to have recommendations by next weekend and any changes "would be done as soon as possible."

The crowds at Trinity Bellwoods attracted much attention and much criticism because the people there violated the city's physical distancing bylaw. The park, located several blocks west of Bathurst Street, is sandwiched between Dundas Street West to the north and Queen Street West to the south.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, has been urging Toronto residents for weeks to keep two metres apart from others when out in public.

Tory himself apologized for his behaviour at the park after he failed to maintain two metres distance from others and wear his cloth mask properly. He said he went to the park to investigate the situation.

"I learned a lot when I was there," Tory said.

On Sunday, however, there were not very many people in the park.

People relax in circles marked on the grass for proper physical distancing at Brooklyn's Domino Park on Monday, May 18 in New York City during the COVID-19 outbreak. The circles were added after the park, which has excellent views of the Manhattan skyline, became severely overcrowded during a spate of warm weather. (Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

"Yesterday, the City had a greater number of bylaw and police officers at Trinity Bellwoods Park throughout the day educating residents about physical distancing and proper use of the park," the city said in a news release on Monday.

"This strategy was successful, and although many people enjoyed the park, there was not a repeat of Saturday."

In a tweet, the city said the circles painted on grass will be "piloted" in Trinity Bellwoods Park and staff will assess how effective they are. If successful in helping people to maintain physical distance, the city said it may paint the circles in other parks as the pandemic continues.

In the meantime, it says if residents arrive at a park that is crowded, they should go to another park.

Toronto reported 177 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing its cumulative total to 10,212. 

A total of 761 people have died of the disease, while a total of 7,509 have recovered, an increase of 112 from Sunday. 

A total of 377 are in hospital with 91 in intensive care units. The city has had 141 outbreaks in institutions, which includes long-term care homes, retirement homes and hospitals.

An aerial view of social distancing circles in San Francisco's Dolores Park on Thursday, May 21. (Noah Berger/Associated Press)


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