Outdoor ice rinks open with new COVID-19 protocols in place

Physical activity is beneficial to overall health and can be done safely, experts say

Skaters are required to wear a mask and practice physical distancing on the ice.
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Skaters are required to wear a mask and practice physical distancing on the ice.
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In consultation with Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, the City of Kingston has opened some outdoor skating rinks to the public.

There are seven ice rinks currently open for skating, according to the City’s website. The rinks in City Park, McBurney Park, Polson Park, Victoria Park, and Market Square are open and in close proximity to Queen’s campus. Other rinks, such as those found in Molly McGlynn Park and Woodbine Park, are also open and more closely serve the East and West ends of the City.

More locations are expected to open pending better ice conditions, Erin Couch, communications officer for the City of Kingston, told The Journal.

The City also detailed specific health guidelines aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 on its website. In addition to maintaining physical distance from other skaters and a mask mandate, the number of skaters at any given time is limited to a maximum of five to 10, depending on the rink. 

READ MORE: New COVID-19 variant found in Kingston region

Many city-maintained rinks have previously allowed skaters to use sticks and pucks for organized pick-up hockey. This year, in an attempt to limit larger gatherings and close contact with one another, Couch said these allowances have been rolled back.

If public health guidelines are followed, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is low, explained Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases and a professor of Medicine at Queen’s, in a phone interview with The Journal.

“There is lots of good data that, in an outdoor environment, there is no opportunity for any kind of aerosols to build up because ventilation is almost infinitely perfect,” Evans said. “Outside transmission of COVID-19 is substantially less common outdoors than it is indoors.”

Open skating rinks also provide an opportunity for individuals who know how to skate to get physical activity during the winter months of the pandemic. Jennifer Tomasone, assistant professor at Queen’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, told The Journal that physical activity in all ages is important for overall health and well-being.

“We have known for years that exercise has many physical, psychological and social benefits, and so at a time where our physical, psychological and social health is impacted because of the pandemic, it is more important than ever to try to make your whole day matter by integrating more activity wherever possible,” she said.

Tomasone, who helped develop the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, said the guidelines give insight into the optimal amount of physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep for healthy living of Canadians of various ages. The guidelines follow a recent report from Statistics Canada showing an increase in sedentary behaviors and screen time in Canadians during the pandemic. 

READ MORE: What does your day look like? The Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Adults have some suggestions

Although skating at one of the many local outdoor rinks in Kingston helps meet these guidelines, Tomasone said there are many other activities one can do to improve their health during the winter season. 

“Meeting the guidelines does not have to be complicated or expensive,” Tomasone said. 

Whether it is through daily chores like shoveling your driveway or incorporating movement during typical sedentary actions like watching television, she said some is better than none.  

 “Small steps throughout the day, every day, add up to benefit your overall health.”

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