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Public Health addresses concerns about public parks and COVID-19

A City park sits vacant on Monday, Mar. 23, 2020. KFL&A Public Health officials say using playground equipment and park fixtures could pose a potential risk

As the sun shone down on Kingston and the area this past weekend, many people experiencing the stir-craze of self-isolation and social distancing took to the outdoors.

A with a taste of spring before the season arrives, families went on bike rides, couples went for hikes, and many spent time on the various trails and conservation areas that surround the area.

But as that happened, a number of our readers came to us with similar concerns: While they were happy to see kids out and enjoying our public parks, they wondered if using the equipment in those parks was dangerous.

We reached out to Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health to find out.

First and foremost, KFL&A Public Health is, indeed, encouraging people to get outside. However, there are some guidelines that should be followed, explained Dr. Azim Kasmani, a Resident Physician with KFL&A Public Health.

“KFL&A Public Health is advising members of the community to continue practicing social distancing. Getting outside and being active are important parts of being healthy and we don’t want to discourage that, but we want to ensure everyone takes steps to reduce the transmission of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, at this time,” he said.

Kasmani said there are two things to keep in mind when using public spaces, such as parks, during this time of recommended social distancing. One of those refers to playground and park equipment and fixtures.

“There is evidence that the COVID-19 virus is able to survive on surfaces including plastic and metal for longer than a few hours, and the City is not able to disinfect these surfaces. It’s hard to know who has used the equipment and whether there is any risk of transmission of the virus,” Kasmani said.

The second thing to remember is adhering to social distancing standards while using public spaces.

“If you are taking your family outside, it’s important to keep everyone safe by keeping a distance of six feet or two metres from other people. This includes children. We are asking families to avoid group gatherings to limit the spread of this virus,” Kasmani explained. “We are also reminding everyone of the importance of hand hygiene as one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of viruses. Frequently washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or using alcohol based hand sanitizer, can help prevent infections.”

As always, Kasmani said, KFL&A Public Health is also advising everyone to stay home if they’re feeling unwell, and to continue to cough or sneeze into tissues or sleeves, and wash hands after.

“We know that there is a lot of spread of the virus outside of Canada, and so all returning travellers must take the next step and self-isolate at home for 14 days when they return,” Kasmani added. “This will help to keep our community safe and limit the spread of the virus.”

For more information on social distancing and self-isolation from KFL&A Public Health, click here.

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