Blog

, Director of Swimmable Water Programs
Posted: March 31, 2020 at 12:25 pm

Photo by Michael Lee

This post was originally written on 31 March 2020, and was last updated 28 July 2020. This page will be updated often with new information.

The end of May typically marks the start of the summer at beaches across Ontario. This year, it will be an unprecedented swim season due to the measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

As of 19 June 2020, the beaches in most municipalities in Ontario are open. Further, beach maintenance, lifeguard supervision and recreational water quality monitoring has also resumed, or is shortly set to resume throughout the province. Scroll to the bottom to see what is happening at beaches in your municipality.

That said, when you are visiting a beach this summer you are required to follow social distancing protocols set by the province, the municipality where the beach is located, and local and provincial health experts.

Before you go to the beach, please follow these steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

  • Complete a self-screening test before each and every beach visit. Do not visit a beach if you have COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, or were exposed to the virus.
  • Visit a beach close to home, as travelling contributes to the spread of the coronavirus. You can use Swim Guide to find beaches near you.
  • Practice physical distancing by staying 2 meters (6 feet) from others on the beach, in the water, at concession stands, and in public washrooms.
  • Wash your hands often. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid gatherings and crowded beaches.
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces before and after use. For example picnic tables, or bike rentals.

Can I swim at Ontario beaches?

If you are considering swimming and other recreational water activities, remember that there are no lifeguards on duty at this time at some beaches. You, your family, and friends will not have assistance on site if you get into trouble in the water. Make sure to choose your activity based on your skill level, never swim alone. When in doubt stay out of the water. You will need to call emergency services (9-1-1) in case of an emergency. Municipalities are strongly recommending that you do not swim in unsupervised, unmonitored beaches.
Please check with your local health unit to confirm whether lifeguard supervision has resumed.

Am I at risk of contracting coronavirus from the water?

Photo by adoephoto

Ontario’s beach closures, along with the closure of outdoor recreational amenities were ordered as part of the extended declaration of emergency to stop the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging people to stay home, practice physical distancing, and avoid social gatherings.

You can absolutely contract COVID-19 if you head to the beach, river, or lake. At the beach, if you are exposed to the respiratory secretions (coughing and sneezing) of an infected person, you can get sick. Beaches, like any crowded public place, put you at risk of contracting the virus. If you are infected and head to the beach, you will further spread the virus.

The virus is transmitted primarily person to person, within about 6 feet (2 meters) through respiratory droplets produced when someone sick coughs or sneezes. In other words, at the beach, you’re most at risk of contracting the virus from being too close to other people. Swimming is not where the risk lies.

To date, scientific evidence and medical research point to there being an extremely low risk of contracting Covid-19 by swimming or recreating in fresh or marine bodies of water.

“There is no evidence showing anyone has gotten COVID-19 through drinking water, recreational water, or wastewater. The risk of COVID-19 transmission through water is expected to be low.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Click here for what we know from the international research community concerning coronavirus transmission in fresh and marine water bodies.

Public Health Units in Ontario

Click on any health unit to access their beach water quality monitoring page.

Provincial Park beach closures

Beaches in Ontario Provincial Parks have reopened as part of Stage 2. Water quality monitoring has resumed at most Ontario Provincial Park beaches.

July 2 2020 Wasaga Beach – The Town of Wasaga Beach is reducing the number of beachfront area municipal parking spaces by 50 percent effective immediately and by next Thursday will close the sand-covered portion of Beach Drive. Click here for more information.

North West

North Western Health Unit

North Western Health Unit will no longer be doing monthly testing of its beaches. The beaches are open and accessible to the public. The Ontario Public Health Standards, allows health units to suspend sampling programs if permanent signs are placed. All of the beaches are currently permanently posted.

Thunder Bay District Health Unit
The start date for the beach monitoring program at Thunder Bay District Health Unit is set tentatively for Monday, June 29, 2020.

North East

Algoma Public Health

The beach monitoring program at Algoma Public health has historically started at the end of June (before Canada Day) and ends the last week in August.

North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit

The water monitoring program at North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit resumed on June 15th.

Porcupine Health Unit

The Porcupine Health Unit has resumed monitoring at beaches, and beaches are open. Click here for test results.

Sudbury and District Health Unit

Beaches in the City of Sudbury – washroom facilities at the following waterfront areas will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, beginning Friday, June 26 – Bell Park Main Beach, Capreol Public Beach (portable washrooms), Kalmo Beach, Meatbird Lake Park, Moonlight Beach, Nepawhin Lake Park, Whitewater Lake Park. Click here for more information.

Timiskaming Health Unit

The province enacted a declaration of emergency to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public. As a result, outdoor recreational amenities such as public beaches were required to close immediately. Local beaches remain closed until further notice.

Eastern Ontario

Eastern Ontario Health Unit
Eastern Ontario Health Unit has begun monitoring certain beaches in the counties of Prescott-Russell, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and the City of Cornwall. Please check individual counties for openings. The Health Unit also issued this notice regarding visiting Eastern Ontario beaches during COVID-19.

Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit

Beaches are open and monitoring has resumed at Hastings and Prince Edward County beaches. Click here for more.

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Health Unit

Beaches are open and monitoring has resumed at Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Beaches. The Health Unit advises:

Public beaches may open during the Stage 2 Framework for Reopening. Local municipalities will decide when their beaches will open for the season. Check with the municipality in advance to be sure you know which areas or services are open, such as washroom facilities.

Follow these steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 while at the beach.

Do:

  • Visit a beach close to your home. Travelling long distances to visit a beach may contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
  • Practice physical distancing by staying 2 meters (6 feet) from others on the beach, in the water and in public washrooms.
  • Avoid large gatherings and crowded areas.
  • Disinfect high-touch surfaces such as picnic tables before and after use.
  • Clean your hands. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
DON’T: 
  • Visit beaches or parks if you are sick, tested positive for COVID-19, or were recently exposed to COVID-19.
  • Take part in organized activities like beach volleyball, frisbee, football, etc.
  • Use playgrounds or play structures. They remain closed in Stage 2, according to the Framework for Reopening.
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit

Beaches will be monitored weekly starting the week of July 6th throughout the summer season until August 24, 2020. Updates will be posted Friday mornings by 9:30 am starting July 10, 2020. Click here for more details.

Ottawa Public Health

Water samples will be collected daily from the City of Ottawa supervised beaches between June 27 and August 30, 2020 and tested for the presence of E. coli bacteria. Click here for more information.

Renfrew County and District Health Unit

Beach water testing for the 2020 summer swimming season will begin the week of June 15.

Central East

Durham Region Health Department

Durham Region Health Department has resumed monitoring at Durham Beaches. However, the Health Department was advised by the Township of “Brock and the City of Oshawa that the beaches in these municipalities (Brock and Oshawa) are currently closed. Therefore, the start of the beach monitoring program has been delayed in these municipalities until the beaches reopen. While the sampling of the water at public beaches within Durham Region is the responsibility of the Health Department, processes and restrictions related to COVID-19 at area beaches are the responsibility of the local area municipalities. More information is available in the guidance document, COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Public Beaches posted at durham.ca/reopeningtoolkit.”

Click here for Durham’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Public Beaches.

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has resumed monitoring. Click here for their beach page.

However, Northumberland County closed down a number of popular beaches for the weekend of July 3-7, 2020, in addition to some other popular beaches that have been closed for the 2020 season due to covid. Click here for more.

Peel Public Health

Beach water testing for Region of Peel beaches began June 25, 2020, and will continue throughout the beach bathing season.

Peterborough County-City District Health Unit

Peterborough beaches are now open. Public Health surveillance program begins in June and continues until the end of August each year. Peterborough County Beaches are sampled every few days. Some are sampled monthly. Sampling started on June 18th, 2020.

Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit

The beach sampling program resumed in June 2020. However, as of July 8, 2020, the Township of Ramara closed all of their public bathing beaches and some water access points until further notice.

York Region Public Health

York Region began sampling 6 July 2020. For further information about recreational water quality in York Region contact York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or TTY 1-866-512-6228.

Central West

Brant Public Health Unit

According to the Grand River Conservation Authority : “The GRCA’s program of water quality sampling at its beaches has been suspended for the 2020 season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand River Conservation Authority’s operations have been reduced to ensure the maintenance of its critical programs and services, including flood operations, land and property management, planning and permits and drinking water source protection.”

“Usually in the months of July and August, the GRCA conducts bi-weekly sampling at nine conservation area beaches throughout the watershed, and makes the data collected available on this web page. While the data is not useful in identifying public health risk when swimming in natural water bodies, it is used to determine long term trends in the water quality at our swimming areas over time. When the water quality sampling program resumes at the GRCA’s beaches, the data will again be made available on this page.”

Haldimand-Norfolk Public Health

As of 2010 the Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit has discontinued sampling of beaches within our jurisdiction. Testing is still being done at Provincial parks, and beach advisories for Rock Point, Long Point, Turkey Point and Selkirk Provincial Parks, and all other Provincial Parks, are posted on the following site.

Halton Region Health Unit

Halton Region has resumed routined their beach water monitoring program. During the summer months, the Halton Region Health Department monitors water quality at selected recreational beaches in Halton Region. Kelso beach, Brant Street beach and Prospect Park Old beach have all reopened and are sampled regularly. Note, you must reserve a spot to swim at Kelso beach.

City of Hamilton Public Health

Effective 19 June 2020, public beaches in Hamilton are open. Monitoring has also resumed at Hamilton Beaches.

Niagara Region Public Health

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, beach water testing in Niagara was delayed this summer, but has resumed at most Niagara Region beaches. However the region’s municipalities have specific COVID-19 regulations and restrictions in place. Click here to for information on the 12 Niagara Municipalities.
St. Catharine’s Sunset Beach, Lakeside Park Beach and Jones Beach are open. However, as of 14 July 2020, only residents of Niagara are allowed to visit these beaches, as a measure to deal with overcrowding and to help enforce social distancing. Visitors must show a resident card. Read more on this new measure.

In Fort Erie, beach access is restricted to residents and there are capacity limits in place, and visitors can check for space before they head to the beach. Click here for more.

In Port Colborne, Cedar Bay and Centennial beaches are open to residents. Nickel Beach is also open. However,there are beach capacity limits in place. Click here for more from the City of Port Colborne on its beaches.

In Grimsby, beaches are currently open for walk-through access only. Swimming and gathering is currently prohibited.

In Lincoln, the beach is open. Physical distancing and all other public health measures must be followed at all times in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment for all residents and users.

Beaches in Wainfleet have reopened.

Region of Waterloo Public Health

According to the Grand River Conservation Authority: “The local Grand River Conservation Authority monitors beaches in Waterloo Region, Shade’s Mills and Laurel Creek. The GRCA’s program of water quality sampling at its beaches has been suspended for the 2020 season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand River Conservation Authority’s operations have been reduced to ensure the maintenance of its critical programs and services, including flood operations, land and property management, planning and permits and drinking water source protection.”

“Usually in the months of July and August, the GRCA conducts bi-weekly sampling at nine conservation area beaches throughout the watershed, and makes the data collected available on this web page. While the data is not useful in identifying public health risk when swimming in natural water bodies, it is used to determine long term trends in the water quality at our swimming areas over time. When the water quality sampling program resumes at the GRCA’s beaches, the data will again be made available on this page.”

Toronto Public Health

There are 11 official city beaches in Toronto and you can access all of them except for those on the Toronto Islands. Lifeguards returned to duty on 22 June 2020, at 6 mainland beaches. Monitoring data is being shared as of 24 June 2020. Island beaches will be supervised after ferry service resumes on 27 June 2020. Click here for all you need to know about Toronto beaches during COVID-19.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health

According to the Grand River Conservation Authority: “The local Grand River Conservation Authority monitors beaches in Waterloo Region, Shade’s Mills and Laurel Creek. The GRCA’s program of water quality sampling at its beaches has been suspended for the 2020 season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand River Conservation Authority’s operations have been reduced to ensure the maintenance of its critical programs and services, including flood operations, land and property management, planning and permits and drinking water source protection.”

“Usually in the months of July and August, the GRCA conducts bi-weekly sampling at nine conservation area beaches throughout the watershed, and makes the data collected available on this web page. While the data is not useful in identifying public health risk when swimming in natural water bodies, it is used to determine long term trends in the water quality at our swimming areas over time. When the water quality sampling program resumes at the GRCA’s beaches, the data will again be made available on this page.”

South West

Chatham-Kent Public Health

Chatham-Kent Public Health’s water monitoring program began on June 8th, 2020. Clear here for the most recent water quality results.

Southwestern Public Health

Southwestern Public Health has resumed recreational water quality monitoring at most beaches.Click here for the latest test results.

Grey Bruce Health Unit

On 8 June 2020, the Town of South Bruce Peninsula stated: “Beaches and Parks will open on a restricted trial basis for walk through only – no stopping, standing, sitting, etc. Playgrounds, pools, splash pads and fitness equipment remain closed by Provincial Order.” Further, the town stated in their recent press release, “You may cross a beach or park to access the water to swim or boat but you cannot stop on the beach or park. If children want to swim, they must be supervised by someone who is in the water with them. You may not wait and watch over them from the shore.”

Press release 14 from 8 June 2020 provides more information.

Huron Perth County Health Unit
Huron Perth County has resumed water quality monitoring and the beaches are open.

Lambton Public Health

All beaches in Lambton County opened Monday, June 22, 2020. Lambton Public Health began the 2020 water quality monitoring program on Monday, June 22, 2020. Click here to for more information.

Middlesex-London Health Unit

Middelsex-London Health Unit resumed weekly sampling for some beaches.

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

The Health Unit will NOT be performing weekly beach inspections or testing beach water for the presence of E. coli for the 2020 season.

History of the 2020 COVID-19 related beach closures in Ontario

Beaches in Ontario, including those located in Ontario Provincial Parks and conservation areas, were closed under order of the province’s Declaration of Emergency. However, access to beaches has gradually been resuming since early May in most municipalities.

Originally, the beach closures were ordered as part of the extended declaration of emergency to stop the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging people to stay home, practice physical distancing, and avoid social gatherings. On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Government of Ontario enacted the Declaration of Emergency on 17 March 2020. Beaches fall under outdoor recreational amenities in the 30 March 2020 order. The Declaration of Emergency has been extended several times. The latest extension is in place until 30 June 2020. Click here to access the orders, and all extensions.

The province defines public beaches as:

Public beaches include any public bathing area owned/operated by a municipality to which the general public has access, and where there is reason to believe that there is recreational use of the water (e.g., beach signage, sectioned off swimming area, water safety/rescue equipment, lifeguard chairs, etc.), which may result in waterborne illness or injury as determined by the local medical officer of health.
Recreational Water Protocol, 2018

On 9 May 2020 the provincial government eased restrictions on public spaces.
Green spaces in parks, trails, ravines and conservation areas that aren’t otherwise closed would remain open for walkthrough access, but individuals must maintain the safe physical distance of at least two metres apart from others.
Government of Ontario, 30 March 2020

On 8 June Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province is moving forward with Stage 2 of reopening in certain regions in Ontario. Stage 2 reopening began Friday, 12 June 2020 at 12:01 a.m in certain regions, businesses and services. Click here for the full list of public health unit regions allowed to move into Stage 2.
Further, Stage 2 reopening calls for Provincial Park beaches to reopen, as well as all camping.

Still, as the province now moves into Stage 2 of reopening, beaches in some municipalities will remain closed, for varying periods and in different capacities. Please see our list of health units below for specific information on what’s happening in your region.

What does “closed” mean? Can I still go for a walk on the beach? Can I swim?

At most beaches in the province the public can now walk through and enjoy active visits to beaches, boardwalks, and waterfront trails. At your local beach, or at a beach you are hoping to visit in other Ontario municipalities, you can often still access the beach and the water.

The province’s Operational Approaches for Recreational Water Guideline, 2018 defines a beach closure as follows :

Beach Closure: to cause restriction/elimination of public access to a beach or specific beach areas where a significant risk to health and safety has been identified. The board of health will direct the owner/operator of the beach to post signage and/or erect barriers/barricades at appropriate locations to reduce the risk of public exposure to the health hazard.

A beach closure can mean the parking lots are closed. Washrooms, change rooms, and other beach facilities are closed. And most notably, municipal and provincial beach programs, including recreational water quality monitoring and lifeguarding programs, were suspended throughout the province. The suspension of beach monitoring, supervision, and maintenance programs will be in place until beaches are officially opened for 2020, which most municipalities announced will start happening in late June. Opening dates won’t be simultaneous across the province. Rather, they will be localized, based on the circumstances in each region.

Access to the beach and water is only restricted with barriers or signs at a handful of beaches in the province, such as Victoria Beach in Cobourg. Check your municipal and city pages for specific location details at your beach to avoid disappointment. You should expect that parking lots will be closed or partially closed. A popular beaches in the province you should also check whether there are restrictions on visitors from outside of the municipality.

Resources for best practices and new updates on getting outside in Ontario

List of Ontario parks and conservation areas, with information on what’s open and what’s closed.

Tips on going outside safely during coronavirus.

Great Lakes Guide

How can I help stop the spread of COVID-19?

Follow all the guidelines set out by your local government, as well as the provincial government’s order. Always practice social distancing, whenever you head outside to exercise and enjoy Ontario’s spectacular water bodies and natural spaces.

 
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