Canby’s playgrounds will officially reopen as soon as city crew have the chance to clean and disinfect play equipment — following new guidance from state health officials Friday.
At a press conference with Governor Kate Brown and representatives of the Oregon Health Authority, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s top epidemiologist, announced that phase 1 counties (which includes Clackamas) would soon be allowed to reopen playgrounds and outdoor public pools for the first time in six months.
“We’re gradually looking at reopening some lower-risk activities, such as reopening public pools and playgrounds,” Dr. Sidelinger said. “We are moving forward with science and safety in mind.”
The state was making this surprise move, Sidelinger explained, because of the declining Covid-19 rates Oregon has seen in recent weeks and ever-increasing evidence that shows transmission of the novel coronavirus is much less likely outdoors.
“Outdoor settings like playgrounds and the surfaces in playgrounds are much less risky,” Sidelinger said, adding that evidence shows pool swimming is safe, as long as participants practice social distancing and wear masks in bathrooms, locker rooms and anywhere people tend to gather.
Canby Mayor Brian Hodson confirmed to The Canby Current Friday evening that city officials have received clearance from the state to reopen playgrounds once they have been cleaned and sanitized.
“This is good news from the governor’s office,” he said. “I’m thrilled. It’s unfortunate that it’s the end of the summer, and kids go back to school on Tuesday. But hopefully, we can get these cleaned up and open so they can be a nice break for parents that are home with kids trying to do distance learning.
“Let the kids go out, run free, burn off some steam. It’s long overdue, but I suppose this is better late than never.”
The timing of the announcement — the press conference where state officials announced they were “looking at” reopening playgrounds was late Friday morning, but the go-ahead did not come until that afternoon — could have been better, a fact that Hodson admitted was more than a little frustrating.
“You know, it’s Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend,” he said. “Cities and counties are running with a skeleton staff. It would have been nice if they could have given us the heads up yesterday, so our crews could have been spending today having the parks ready to go for the weekend.”
Nevertheless, he said Canby officials are scrambling to locate maintenance personnel that may be available and on-call for the work needed to officially reopen play equipment.
“We are working to confirm if we have a crew available,” Hodson told the Current. “I’ve told them that we need to try and get our playgrounds open. We will have them cleaned and sanitized as soon as we can.”
Left unanswered is the million-dollar question — or, at least, the $475,000 question: Will Canby’s new splash pad see a 2020 opening after all? The new guidelines offered by the state would seem to clear the way for it, but Hodson was not able to confirm this yet.
“We’re investigating that and will announce something as soon as we know for sure,” he said. Of the spray park itself, he added: “I mean, it’s done. It’s just waiting for the go-ahead for the kids to be able to go out and enjoy it.”
The Canby Swim Center, however, is probably a no-go. Being an indoor facility, the pool may have to await later guidance from state officials to reopen for public use. On top of that, Hodson said, the swim center is still undergoing some deferred maintenance that is not yet complete.
Mayor Hodson has previously been outspoken in advocating for the need for local kids to have healthy outlets amid the stress of all things associated with the coronavirus pandemic.