Greater Victoria School District and municipalities closing playgrounds to reduce virus spread

All playgrounds in the Greater Victoria School District are closing to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The decision follows the direction of B.C.'s Provincial Public Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the district said.

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“We are closing our school playgrounds in the best interests of our kids and community," said Superintendent Shelley Green. “We all have a social responsibility in preventing the surge of transmission. We must do our part to flatten the curve and comply with the recommendations from our public health authorities.”

Signs are being installed to inform the public of the closures.

Playing fields will remain open, but members of the community are reminded to practise social distancing.

Some communities on Vancouver Island are putting playground equipment off-limits to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay, the Capital Regional District, Colwood and Parksville have announced that playgrounds and playground equipment will be closed. Parks, especially wilderness-style parks with trails, will remain open, but municipalities warn users to practise social distancing of at least two metres.

Municipal parks officials have said they are unable to appropriately wipe or clean playground equipment to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for Island Health, said kids by nature congregate together when engaged in active play and won’t maintain the social distancing that’s needed to slow the virus’s spread.

“So in good conscience, [municipalities] are closing playgrounds,” he said.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry had expressed a similar concern.

“If there is a group of kids all mingling on a playground, that is not what we need,” Henry told reporters Thursday.

“Parents should not be letting children go and have play dates and go to playgrounds with other groups of children because we know that can transmit this virus and then they bring it home to you and your family.

“That is how it gets transmitted to seniors.”

Stanwick said playgrounds aren’t the only option for keeping kids active.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t take your kids out for a walk or find things to do,” said Stanwick. “Activities are good, particularly for kids who need to burn off energy if they stay home.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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