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B.C. parents face tough spring break choices amid coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: B.C. spring break day camp jitters
Just days before spring break gets underway in British Columbia, how are families coping with growing concerns about travel, and what will happen to the many kids' camps and other activities parents were counting on? John Hua reports.

With spring break just a day away, parents are being faced with tough new decisions about what to do with their kids amid growing concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

At Metro Vancouver’s Climb Base5 climbing gym, the spring break camp is all about making friends while challenging children on a personal level.

Owner Daniel Poggi was concerned there would be a drop-off in attendance due to rising concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, current registration seems to be holding strong with only one cancellation.

READ MORE: Coronavirus pandemic: What’s cancelled, what’s postponed in B.C.

“Whenever there’s health risks we know that parents really love their kids and want to make sure they’re going to be safe,” said Poggi.

“We create programming for kids to create life skills, and for them to miss out on something like that over spring break where they get to meet new friends, have fun, challenge themselves would be really unfortunate.”

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Coronavirus: Pandemic impacting many facets of everyday life
Coronavirus: Pandemic impacting many facets of everyday life

Poggi said his company is taking precautions such as increased sanitization of climbing surfaces, and increasing education for kids about hand washing.

Joe Haegert, a regular climber at the gym’s Coquitlam location and an emergency room doctor at Royal Columbian Hospital said while there is always risk, the science so far has shown that children appear less susceptible to the virus.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. urges end to large gatherings, international travel, including to U.S.

“My thoughts would be you practice good hand hygiene, you don’t touch your mouth, if you climb you just keep your hands down by your side and periodically wash your hands.”

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On Thursday, B.C. health officials urged all event organizers to cancel gatherings larger than 250 people.

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BC Place subsequently cancelled all public events, including Playdome, an indoor carnival event popular with kids during spring break.

Important advice from B.C. health officials about travel and mass gatherings amid coronavirus
Important advice from B.C. health officials about travel and mass gatherings amid coronavirus

“The situation is evolving quickly and we are working diligently with our event partners to confirm any information that we can share,” said a BC Place spokesperson in an email.

“Guests are encouraged to keep their tickets until further information becomes available.”

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The Richmond Oval, which offers a variety of spring break programming, says it will go ahead with activities, but will ask parents to pick up their children if they appear ill.

“The Oval is offering a credit if a child is unable to attend camp due to illness,” said the facility in a statement.

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Other measures include more hand-sanitizer stations, daily cleaning of sports equipment and not permitting participants to share food and beverages, water bottles, or give each other high-fives.

The Vancouver Park Board says it is also carrying on with its many spring break activities.

Park board director of recreation Daisy Chin said facilities are stepping up their cleaning schedule and protocols for high-traffic areas.

Spring break staycations close to home
Spring break staycations close to home

They’re also ensuring staff and participants are frequently washing their hands and staying home if they’re feeling ill.

“We’re going to take a very flexible approach in terms of refunds for any of our community centre fitness centres, rinks or pools,” said Chin.

READ MORE: 2 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at West Vancouver care home

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“If they’re uncomfortable with coming down, they do have that option to have a refund and refrain from going into the programs. But we certainly do encourage people to come down and enjoy some of the activities and programs we have going now.”

Chin said as of Thursday, registration remained full for spring day camps, and that no major activities had been cancelled.

But she said the board remained in close contact with Vancouver Coastal Health and would adapt if the situation changed.

With the Ontario government declaring that all of its public elementary and secondary schools will remain closed for an additional two weeks after the March Break, some businesses like Climb Base5 are gearing up in case British Columbia follows suit.

“If parents end up needing a place to bring their kids, we’ll make sure we have the programs available,” Poggi said.