City recommends youth stay away from public and school playgrounds, but no plans to close them to public

The City of Prince Albert has asked parents to keep their children away from parks and playground equipment for the time being, but they have no plans to close them to the public.

City parks director Tim Yeaman said they’ve had no discussions about banning residents from vising those areas. They simply want parents to be aware of potential dangers so they can make responsible decisions.

“We just want to remind people that this is a serious situation (and) that the COVID virus itself is something that could potentially be of concern to parents, no matter where you go, not matter what touch surface you look at,” Yeaman said during an interview on Friday. “Playgrounds are a collection point for germs and bacteria.”

The Saskatchewan Rivers and Prince Albert Catholic school divisions joined the City of Prince Albert is advising parents and children to stay away from school playgrounds too.

Yeaman said they’re acting on advice given by the Saskatchewan Health Authority, which is concerned about mass gathering and the difficulties of social distancing at playgrounds.

If the SHA recommends they close all parks and playgrounds, Yeaman said they’d consider it. However, he doesn’t anticipate that happening.

“I don’t think at this time it would be in our best interest,” he explained. “The Sask. Health Authority is asking people to get out and get that exercise. It’s good for mental health.”

“We certainly don’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction and move out and try to close down 30-plus playgrounds,” he added. “The resources required to do that would be extraordinary.”

Yeaman added that city administrators are closely monitoring SHA recommendations and public feedback on the issue.

The City already has a plan in place to disinfect parks and playgrounds after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Yeaman said they began talks in early 2019, and likely would have started a disinfection program anyway, even if the Coronavirus outbreak had never happened.

“It’s ironic that now we’re seriously needing to take a look at what tools we would need to have in place, but I think it’s a good practice,” he said. “Good overall maintenance of our playgrounds, the hygienic portion of it, is very important.”