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Monday, July 27, 2020

Toronto's wildest island beach was dangerously crowded this weekend

Concerns about the imminence of a second wave continue to swirl in Toronto this week as COVID-19 restrictions lift and young people either misunderstand or blatantly disregard orders to practice social distancing.

As is often the case on sunny, sweaty-hot weekends in the summer, Hanlan's Point Beach was packed with party people on Saturday.

Photo and video footage from the popular, clothing-optional beach on the Toronto Islands shows hundreds, if not thousands of people hanging out in close proximity along the roughly one-kilometre-long stretch of sand.

Scorching temperatures drove many beachgoers into the water as well, where dozens of boats, jet skis and giant floaties hosted even more bodies.

Few masks were observed among the masses, which irked some observers — though it's important to note that facial coverings are only required indoors under the City of Toronto's mandatory face mask bylaw.

Indoors or outdoors, however, all people are required to maintain a distance of two metres between themselves and anyone who doesn't live with them or appear in their 10-person social circle.

Under Stage 3 of the provincial government's economic reopening plan, gatherings of up to 100 people are permitted outdoors, but the crowds observed at Hanlan's on Saturday appeared to exceed this number.

Furthermore, Toronto isn't in Stage 3 yet. Under current regulations, no gathering is allowed to exceed 10 people.

Like Trinity Bellwoods Park, Cherry Beach and several King West bars before it, Hanlan's has become the target of intense scrutiny among people who seem to hate millennials.

We do know that cases of COVID-19 have been rising among Ontario residents between the ages of 20 and 39 over the past few weeks.

"I must urge all Canadians, particularly younger adults, to not give in to COVID-19 fatigue," said Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam of the phenomenon late last week. "Younger age groups are not invincible against COVID-19."

Premier Doug Ford warned similarly last week that young people need to better heed the advice of public health officials (not to mention actual emergency orders) and stop partying.

The City of Toronto itself has taken steps to crack down on the massive beach gatherings and park parties that have been springing up since summer weather settled in.

In addition to sending out officers to warn offenders, city officials are now restricting parking at local beaches on weekends to help prevent crowding and slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.

There doesn't appear to be much social distancing enforcement on the Islands just yet, however, as some who were at or passed Hanlan's Point Beach on Saturday pointed out.

The Islands don't exactly have public parking lots to block off, as the only way over (for those who don't live there) is by taking the public ferry or a private taxi service.

The recently-relaunched ferry is only running at half capacity, though water taxis seem busier than ever, shuttling people back and forth across Lake Ontario.

We've yet to see any COVID-19 spikes related to young people partying at Hanlan's Point Beach, but Toronto Police say a man did tragically drown in the area on Saturday night.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

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