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Coronavirus: Hamilton’s emergency director ‘disheartened’ to see kids in parks during pandemic

Paul Johnson, the Director of Hamilton's Emergency Operations Centre, addresses the media during a daily update session at city hall on March 13, 2020.
Paul Johnson, the Director of Hamilton's Emergency Operations Centre, addresses the media during a daily update session at city hall on March 13, 2020. Don Mitchell / Global News Hamilton

Hamilton’s director of the emergency operations centre (EOC) is urging parents to keep their kids away from city parks and playgrounds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul Johnson said he was “disheartened” when he saw photos of gatherings across the city’s conservation areas and parks over the weekend.

 

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“It’s not a time for play dates with kids. It’s not a time to allow your kids to go and play with a basketball in the local park. This is all stuff that shouldn’t be happening,” Johnson told Global News.

The play structure in Greenhill park in Hamilton’s east-end was one of many public spaces the city shut down in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The play structure in Greenhill park in Hamilton’s east-end was one of many public spaces the city shut down in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dave Woodard / Global News

The EOC director says when he came in Monday morning, he was met with a deluge of e-mails from concerned residents telling stories about large gatherings not practicing “social distancing” in the city’s parks and conservation areas.

READ MORE: Stop taking children to playgrounds, playdates during coronavirus outbreak: experts

“They are a bit disheartening because it’s not three or four people getting together and a little too close. They’re talking about 30, 40, 50 people. They’re talking with thousands of people at a park.”

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Johnson says although greenspaces in city parks are still open to the public, park equipment and play structures are not. Playground structures have been closed until further notice since the city can not assure they are completely sanitized for use.

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“When we did say it was OK to be outside, we did not mean that it’s OK to plan a trip to an area or to go and do all the things you usually do,” Johnson said.

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“They’re closed. Don’t access any of the play structures. They’re not sanitized and we don’t want people on them.”

Meanwhile, the city is closing all conservation areas as of March 25. Those caught in an area, or even parking in one, could face trespassing charges.

 

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On the weekend, there was evidence of friends and families across Canada congregating in city parks, fields and playgrounds, defying warnings from health officials that Canadians keep a distance from each other.

One of the most notable pieces came from Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who took a video of kids on swings and a playset, completely ignoring social distancing advice while their parents watched on.

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“Having seen similar images from the weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his public address outside Rideau Cottage on Monday to send a stern message about social distancing, telling Canadians that “enough is enough.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: What’s closed, cancelled, postponed in Hamilton, Burlington and Niagara due to COVID-19

“If you choose to ignore that advice, you’re not just putting yourself at risk, you’re putting others at risk,” Trudeau said. “Enough is enough. Go home and stay home. This is what we all need to be doing and we’re going to make sure this happens.”

Recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies say the virus that causes COVID-19 can live on a number of hard surfaces for as much as nine days, particularly if the surface is metal, glass, or plastic.

The CDC says although transmission from person to person is a much greater risk, transmission via surfaces can also be dangerous.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Hamilton reporting 5 new COVID-19 cases, 2 in Halton

As of Monday, Hamilton had recorded 32 positive cases in the city, with 26 per cent of all cases coming from people between 65 and 79 years old.

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Public health officers in Hamilton say it’s unlikely many will become infected with COVID-19, but have admitted the situation is rapidly evolving, particularly with travel-related cases from abroad.

Johnson says despite the city’s closure and the fact the province is in a state of emergency banning public events with over 50 people until the end of the month, residents will likely have to help out by complying with the rules since the city cannot be everywhere with enforcement.

“I’m not sure we have the resources, quite frankly, whether it’s police, whether it’s by law, whether it’s the Ontario workers. I don’t know how you enforce that.”

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Coronavirus outbreak: Ford says Ontario working hard to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 spread

 

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend social distancing, frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.