Ontario premier tells 'reckless' people who packed Toronto park to get tested for COVID-19

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is asking everyone who ignored physical distancing rules at a Toronto park last weekend to get tested for COVID-19 while slamming their "reckless" behaviour.

Toronto police estimate that as many as 10,000 people packed Trinity Bellwoods Park, near Queen Street West and Strachan Avenue, despite repeated calls from public health officials to avoid large gatherings as Ontario continues to see a rise in new COVID-19 cases after being on the decline for weeks.

"First of all, I'm disappointed to say the least with everyone who showed up at Trinity Bellwoods on Saturday," Ford said at Queen’s Park on Monday. "Why don't you do us all a favour and go get tested now, go to a local hospital or assessment centre and get tested."

"I encourage anyone who has been in large gatherings like that... they need to get tested."

Ford said that despite the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases and witnessing of people disregarding physical distancing rules he is not considering rolling back the province’s reopening plan. 

These are the COVD-19 testing centres in Toronto

"I'm not going to punish the whole province because a group of people in Toronto ended up getting together and it's not fair to everyone else in Toronto as well," Ford said.

"What I worry about is them going back home. How about their family members - their brother, their sisters, their mothers, aunts, grandparents? Weren't they thinking of them when they went there?"

"C'mon guys, give me a break, just don't do reckless things like this."

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said that while several tickets were issued to people in the park who were urinating and defecating on driveways and backyards of nearby homes, very few tickets were issued to people ignoring physical distancing. 

Mayor John Tory, who visited the park on Saturday night to educate those not following the rules, also came under fire after a photo surfaced of him wearing a mask incorrectly while standing too close to a group at the park.

While Ford commended Tory for "working his back off" during the pandemic, he said that it’s now "up to the mayor" if he wants to get tested for COVID-19. 

This is how you set an example? Tory at Trinity? pic.twitter.com/YFE0bBReLu

— Dani Elwell (@danielwell00) May 24, 2020

Tory said that he would self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, advice Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa has recommended. However, Tory added that he would not get tested for the virus noting that there is a documented incubation period to develop symptoms and testing too early could result in a false negative. 

Meanwhile, Ontario's top doctors said that while people at the park can be tested, they are currently not recommending it for everyone.

"If they're very concerned they can go for testing, but we're not recommending that they all go for testing at this point," Dr. Barbara Yaffe said Monday. 

Yaffe said people who were in the park should self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and try not to be near people in a high risk category. She is also urging anyone who was in the park to use a facial covering. 

De Villa said Monday she is also not recommending that everyone in the park get a COVID-19 test.

Regional reopening plan 'doesn't make sense'

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Ford said that he is not considering a regional reopening plan for the province. 

According to Ontario health officials, COVID-19 cases recorded in Toronto-area public health units account for 64.8 per cent of all patients in the province – a number that has slowly increased in recent days.

This statistic has prompted calls from some officials, like the mayor of Kingston, Ont., to allow individual health units to relax restrictions at a rate appropriate for the number of cases in each area.

For example, there have been 10,035 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Toronto, while Kingston-area health unit, KFL&A Public Health has reported 62 cases, of which 61 have resolved.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy told CTV News Toronto last Thursday that the success of a regional reopening “breaks down once you see movement of people."

"If we take the example that everything outside the GTA is given a different set of restrictions, invariably you will see people will migrate to those areas and decide the rules no longer apply. That's human nature."

"Human nature is prone to finding loopholes, to exploit freedom where it is available."

Sharkawy said it only takes one "super spreader" to travel into a relatively unaffected region in the province and cause serious issues. 

With files from CP24's Codi Wilson.