Toronto recreation centers to be shut down over staff health

The City of Toronto announced on Wednesday that it’s starting to “paap[e]” some recreational programs, including those hosted by City-owned parks and places that are “visible or use public facilities.” The policy is in response to the closure of several City-run swimming pools this year because employees hadn’t been vaccinated against a contagious strain of hepatitis A.

More than 80 City of Toronto recreation programs were set to go on hiatus on Thursday and in the coming days. The shutdowns could ultimately affect more than 26,000 children and their parents.

These services include swimming pools, art and cultural opportunities, libraries, and skating and snowboarding facilities. The City did not provide the names of the affected sports and recreation programs.

In a statement, the City said the move was being made to “ensure the safety of the public.”

The reduction of recreation activities is the result of staff vacancies that have resulted from staff having been away with their employers during flu season and the camp season. The backlog of unvaccinated employees was acknowledged by the City earlier this year, as more than half of the eight city pools scheduled to close this year for a week because of staff absenteeism did not vaccinate.

Since then, other municipal institutions have taken steps to combat the growing number of unvaccinated employees. The Toronto District School Board extended all staff immunization rules for the school year beyond the traditional summer months, and the municipal transit commission also mandated booster vaccinations this month. The TTC also announced plans to bring in a flu shot clinic in an effort to catch unvaccinated employees before they start work.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Mayor John Tory criticized the City’s decision to “impose a hiring freeze when there are qualified trained staff who we can’t find,” suggesting that the “City must recognize and respect the impact on residents of losing sports and recreation opportunities.”

According to the City, the shutdowns will help it “better align its temporary staff workforce with its real [work] force.” However, the move has angered parents, community associations, and local politicians. The chair of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, Kathy Elliott, even took to Twitter to express her dismay, saying the decision “is a recipe for chaos.”

Read the full story at Toronto Life.


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