Parents in Toronto need to immediately stop taking their kids to playgrounds
With schools, daycares, rec centres, pools and major attractions all closed amid the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, there are few places left for children to hang out during the day.
Parents in front-line industries may struggle to find child care options, but even those who are fortunate and healthy enough to work from home or take time off need some way to entertain their kids while Toronto is in self-isolation mode.
For many people, this has meant daily outdoor activity — which is great (so far) in terms of family walks. It's not not so great when it comes to playgrounds, however, according to government officials and experts.
Ontario has yet to mandate the official closure of city parks (though provincial parks are now shut down until at least April 30) but Premier Doug Ford did say during a press conference on Friday afternoon that residents should be avoiding all play dates and playgrounds, in addition to using drive-through or delivery services for food.
Many Torontonians have nonetheless expressed their concern in recent days over how many people are taking their kids outdoors to climb all over public equipment, despite the advice of health experts to stay home and help slow the spread of COVID-19.
"I'm hearing that our playgrounds are still packed with kids," wrote Toronto City Councillor Josh Matlow on Twitter late Thursday night.
"As a parent myself, it breaks my heart to have to write this, but please stop this. In normal times, we take our kids to the park because it's good for them. But these aren't normal times. This isn't good for anyone."
It’s about keeping 6ft away from others- social distancing, which is really about saving lives. I get that we all need to get outside. We can certainly visit a quiet park for a walk with our kids. The concern health experts have is about us congregating and spreading COVID-19.— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) March 20, 2020
Matlow's original tweet, which garnered nearly 2,000 likes and more than 670 retweets, has sparked a larger conversation among people who want to see parents take public health more seriously.
"Can you please police tape play structures at playgrounds?" tweeted one resident to the City of Toronto on Friday afternoon. "So many kids at Kew Park (castle park) in the beach. Parents - smarten up."
"Someone in a Facebook thread I'm following just wrote that they heard sunbeams are killing the virus on playground equipment and since her playground hasn't been closed by the city and she sees kids there all day that it must be safe," wrote another.
"THIS IS WHAT WE'RE DEALING WITH. #Covid_19."
I don’t get it- playgrounds and basketball courts were FULL over the weekend in Toronto. What are these people thinking?!— Sanja O-vić (@parallax_dreams) March 17, 2020
Some jurisdicitons, such as Coquitlam, B.C., have completely shut down playgrounds in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has now infected some 846 people across Canada and more than 200,000 people worldwide.
As it stands now in Toronto, Matlow says the city's Office of Emergency Management "is actively working on preparing social-distancing signs for our playgrounds."
"I'm grateful for the work that they are doing to protect Toronto residents and save lives," tweeted the councillor.
Now it's up to us as citizens to do our part and practice social distancing — however unpleasant hanging out with rowdy kids all day may be.
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