KINGSTON, ONT. -- The City of Kingston has issued an updated emergency order to close the beach at Breakwater Park and the Gord Downie Memorial Pier after hundreds of students crowded the area on Friday.

"Based on the recommendation of KFL&A Medical Officer of Health, Dr. [Kieran] Moore, and with the guidance of Kingston Police, effective [Saturday] the City of Kingston will be closing the beach area of Breakwater Park and the Gord Downie Pier to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the community," a news release from the City of Kingston says. "By amended emergency order, the City is prohibiting the public from using this area of the Park and is looking to the public to comply with the closure for as long as the emergency order is in effect. The remainder of the Breakwater Park will still be accessible to the public and subject to the 2 metres distancing requirement under the current emergency order."

Fences could be seen going up Saturday morning, with officials telling CTV News the beach was closed at 11 a.m.

Dr. Moore told CTV News the swift move was made after seeing the crowds of students grow larger over the last few days.

"Clearly, this is a risk to our community when people aren't physically distancing, not wearing masks, aren't following the rules," he said.

Moore said he expects to see new cases as all schools reopen, and that closing the beach will help to limit the spread.

"We have to control it now if we want a successful fall and winter."

Locals tell CTV News they support the move.

"Fantastic. They're right on top of it. The city's on top of it and it needed to be addressed immediately," said Monica Litkey.

Ann Hunnisett Rouget, who often uses the park for walks, says she's disappointed it had to come to this.

"I've gone by and I've seen a tremendous number of people that have not been social distancing and it's a concern," she said. "I'm sorry to see that there hasn't been more of an official presence before it was entirely shut down."

Some students say they're disappointed, but ultimately understand.

"With everything going on, there's a lot of new people coming from all around the world so it probably is for the best," said Queen's student Tyler Hanna.

"If anything, it's a bit overdue because I was here during the summer and there were still lots of students and families here," said Andrew Zhang. "Way too much to be safe." 

Emergency order issued Friday to mandate distancing in parks

This follows an emergency order, issued Friday, mandating physical distancing of two metres in all city parks in Kingston.

“Recurring situations in City Parks where individuals are not practicing physical distancing present an increased risk of COVID-19 community transmission,” Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson said. “This is an important step to ensure that health regulations and recommendations are being followed for the community’s wellbeing.”

The scene at Gord Downie Pier near Queen's University Friday afternoon showed a beach full of people who were not distancing, nor wearing masks. Kingston police officers were at the scene but declined to comment to CTV News. 

Kingston Gord Downie Pier

The people at the park who spoke to CTV identified themselves as Queen's University students or as visiting friends of those attending the university.

Under the initial order, individuals must maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from all other people while in a city park, with some exceptions. 

Breaking the rules could lead to a fine of up to $500.

The physical distancing requirements in city parks do not apply to:

  • children under 16, who are with their parents
  • individuals who are members of the same household
  • situations where physical distancing may not be possible for the purposes of using a public restroom
  • situations where physical distancing is not possible due to health and safety requirements

The order applies to all of Kingston’s city-owned and administered parks and includes playing fields, play structures, and community recreation and leisure facilities. Residents will still be able to walk through and use portions of any park that are not otherwise closed, and they can still use amenities like fields and play structures.

Signs will be posted in all relevant areas where the order is in effect. 

Outbreak at Queen's would be "disastrous", university says

Queen's University is telling its students to keep COVID-19 top of mind this fall, to prevent outbreaks that could force the university to close its doors.

In a letter to students, posted on the university's website, several university officials say students have a role to play in avoiding outbreaks of COVID-19.

"Over the summer, the administration and student leaders have been planning for your arrival and creatively addressing how we deliver both educational and co-curricular programming in a largely remote world. One thing has been guiding everything we do – the concern for the health and safety of our students, staff, faculty, and all residents of Kingston. COVID-19 has turned our world upside down but so far Canada and, in particular, the City of Kingston have managed to keep this virus under control," the letter reads.

"Outbreaks within our student population will be disastrous, not only for us but for many others. We do not want to see the university forced to close its doors and students leaving the City as we saw in March."

The university says everyone has a role to play, and that pandemic control orders will be enforced.

"The City, police, and campus security will be using their authority to enforce physical distancing and ensure that people do not congregate in ways that promote the spread of COVID-19. We support their efforts," the letter says. "We want this year at Queen’s to be a positive one for all and, most importantly, for you to stay safe and well. We will continue to provide information, guidance, and resources for students on COVID-19-related issues."