City of Winnipeg keeping parks open for now and adding physical distancing signage

By | March 24, 2020

WINNIPEG — With their gym closed and swimming pools shut down due to the pandemic, Leah Barnlund and Wenda Dickens are looking for ways to stay active while physically staying away from others.

“We were going to have a bigger group come with us, but we decided that the larger group didn’t maybe project the right image, so just two of us came,” said Barnlund, while out for a walk at St. Vital Park.

Something that used to be so simple now requires careful consideration.

“Two of us, we can keep far enough apart that we feel safe,” said Dickens.

Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer isn’t stopping people from going outside – unless you’re sick, self-isolating due to travel or possible exposure, or have a confirmed case of COVID-19 – but he is reiterating an important message if you decide to do so.

“This virus is transmitted through close contact for prolonged periods,” said Roussin, when asked about the issue during Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing. “And so if we can limit that close contact we are interrupting the transmission of that virus.”

That means if you are going out for some fresh air, physical distancing strategies and other public health recommendations still apply.

“Certainly people who are self-isolating we want them to self-isolate, but other people, you can get out, get that exercise in need to be strictly adhering to the social distancing strategies,” said Roussin.

With the advice of public health officials in mind, the City of Winnipeg won’t be closing parks or play structures, but says it’s taking action to get the message out about proper usage during the pandemic. 

“Signage will be going up over the coming days in city parks and on city play structures, reminding the public about social distancing and reminding the public that our play structures are not cleaned or disinfected,” said Jason Shaw, assistant chief of emergency management for the City of Winnipeg.

“We are not closing city parks or play structures at this time. We recognize the importance of needing to balance social distancing with the positive, mental health well-being aspects of being able to get outside.”

But just because parks remain open doesn’t give people a free pass to ignore public health policies.

“If we see packed parks where social distancing just can’t occur then that concerns us,” said Roussin.

Roussin has previously pointed out it’s difficult to give a general recommendation about going outside and apply it to every possible scenario. He used an example of someone who’s in self-isolation who wants to walk their dog.

“For the most part leaving your house, walking your dog around the block, staying two metres from everyone, you’re outside – really low risk,” said Roussin on Saturday. “But now apply it to somebody living in a 20-storey apartment building needing to come down the elevator who should be self-isolating, right. It’s a different scenario. It’s really hard to apply everything to specific scenarios.”

Barnlund stressed she still limits how often she leaves the house and avoids contact with others.

“I wouldn’t go somewhere where there’s a whole bunch of people — we stay away,” she said.

Roussin said people at increased risk, such as those with underlying medical conditions, should take extra caution and stay home if they can.  

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