SD 51 - Boundary closed all playgrounds on March 24. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

SD 51 closes playground, court access amid COVID-19 concerns

The Provincial Health Officer has said that playgrounds are not safe spaces during pandemic

Playgrounds and recreation areas across the Boundary are closing to the public as local governments look for ways to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, March 24, superintendent Ken Minette of School District 51 – Boundary announced via Facebook that the district has closed all playgrounds and school courts to public.

“All school play structures will be wrapped in bright yellow caution tape indicating they should not be accessed,” the statement says. “This decision was made based on clear messaging from our Provincial Health Officer about the need to implement social distancing as a strategy to help combat the spread of COVID-19.”

The Village of Midway, the City of Greenwood and the City of Grand Forks have also closed access to their playground equipment, citing public health reasons.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top doctor who is leading B.C.’s strategy to combat the spread, has repeatedly insisted over the past week that playground use, as well as sports such as basketball which use shared equipment, is not a safe activity to prevent the spread of the virus.

Minette’s statement noted that the school district is unable to sanitize its play structures on a daily basis.

As tempting as it may be to get outside with other kids and families, Shannon Turner, the executive director of the Public Health Association of British Columbia, told Black Press that parents shouldn’t be hosting any playdates and should be taking social isolation seriously when it comes to their children.

“Maintain your family unit; you can go outside, you can do walks, you can be in your garden type of thing, but you maintain social distance,” she said. “Children are innately high-contact, they love to run and play and tag and touch and share toys etcetera and any of those surfaces can, you know, transmit the bug.”

Turner said if you do have to go into a high contact place in the community with your child, like a grocery store, wash your clothes and hands when you get home.

“I think this is a great learning opportunity for kids around public health prevention practice,” she said. “Hand-washing and using a Kleenex and taking care of your own personal hygiene, and kids can feel quite a bit of power when they get responsibility for those kinds of things.”

Turner’s advice mirrors that of Henry, who says that people can go outside but to stick within their family.

Mindful that its public facilities also cannot be maintained and sanitized, the Phoenix Cross Country Ski Society announced on March 24 that the Dacha and other shared spaces will be closed to the public amid COVID-19 concerns as well.

With files from Cloe Logan


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