Playtime may soon be over as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
As children and teens continued to congregate in playgrounds, skate parks and elsewhere over the weekend, the city is looking to close them down.
Coun. Denis Walsh called on Monday for their immediate closure.
“We need to hunker down,” Walsh told KTW. “We need to stop any kind of social interaction, encourage people to isolate themselves at home. You can’t sanitize, disinfect playgrounds continually. They’re a source. That’s why I say we shut them down today. Or yesterday.”
Walsh said the Stuart Wood playground downtown has been vacant in recent days. However, Walsh said it was utilized by a day care last week. In addition, images of the playground at Riverside Park and circulated online over the weekend, showing numerous kids gathering. Staff from KTW have witnessed the same at the skate park on McArthur Island.
Walsh’s concern is that it is difficult to keep kids away from each other and sanitize the playground.
“Better safe than sorry,” he said, noting he will raise the issue of closing playgrounds with council.
Other communities in B.C. have already announced similar measures to close playgrounds, including Vancouver and Delta. On Friday, Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian was asked by KTW at a press conference if the city would close outdoor public spaces that encourage congregating, including skateboard parks, playgrounds and dog parks. At the time, the city had already shuttered recreational facilities and myriad civic facilities to the public, in order to combat the spread of the virus.
“It’s a difficult situation because we don’t want people to be holed up in their basement,” Christian replied. “We want people to be out by themselves or as a family group, getting some fresh air or experiencing the outside. But do not congregate. That is really the issue in what we are talking about, so you don’t run the risk of expanding the infection beyond where it needs or is going.”
Still, the situation is rapidly changing and remains fluid, with daily announcements of new measures rolling out at every level of government.
Coun. Arjun Singh said he expects an announcement on the issue locally in the near future as council heeds advice from the city’s Emergency Operations Centre.
“They are recommending things day by day to us and to the mayor,” Singh said. “I’m sure that they’re on that and they’ll figure out what to recommend. I wouldn’t be surprised if they recommended that.”
Singh said the key message to the community remains that the city cannot catch everyone gathering in the community and the public needs to stay home. One issue is the city’s ability to enforce closure of the parks, Singh said. Instead, he said the city needs to encourage people to stay home — a message heard time and time again from experts and government officials from the municipal to federal levels.
“People have to realize the seriousness of this themselves and, you know, keep your teenagers and toddlers and youngsters occupied at home or in the backyard,” Singh said. “A playground in parks can definitely spread the virus. I think that would definitely be considered by our folks at the operations centre and I think they’ll make the right decision.”
The city is expected to issue a press release on the matter at some point on Monday.