Parks and playgrounds busy as weather warms up
KITCHENER -- More people are heading to parks and playgrounds as the weather warms up in Waterloo Region.
The spaces will likely get even busier next week when elementary and high school students have the week off for April break.
"Kids playing, that's an incredibly important thing to their mental health," infectious disease specialist Dr. Gerald Evans said.
Playgrounds were shut down during the first wave of COVID-19, but they're currently open.
Dr. Evans said that's the right call based on what is known about the virus now.
"Outside, the likelihood of transmission is so low from any of the modes of transmission that we see that I think we should be allowing children to go into these types of playgrounds, be a kid, enjoy that time," he said.
People in Waterloo Region are encouraged to use parks and trails close to where they live, along with limiting their time and avoiding crowding. There's no capacity limit for parks and playgrounds and masks aren't required, but they are recommended.
The region's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said people using parks should keep their distance and avoid close contact with people outside of their household.
"It is definitely enticing with the warmer weather to go out," Dr. Wang said. "Getting essential exercise is permitted."
"I think it's about using common sense and good judgement," one resident said. "When you enter a park, if it's too busy, you should leave and come back at another time."
However, not all park goers feel that's necessary.
"I don't really pressure them to physical distance with other kids," another person said. "I don't think that's normal or healthy for them to have to worry about that. They're kids, so we come here and we let them be kids."
Gloria MacNeil, the director of bylaw enforcement with the City of Kitchener, said most people are being compliant and keeping their distance from others. She said park ambassadors are keeping a close eye on larger and busier parks and plan to increase their presence next week to remind people of the rules during the break.
"I think the weather's going to be fairly nice next week and, with people being locked down, we anticipate the volume will be higher in parks, so we will definitely have them there during peak hours when the education piece will be important," MacNeil said.