Science & Environment

Oregon moves to open playgrounds, public pools

By Erin Ross (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Sept. 5, 2020 12:11 a.m.

Phase 1 counties will soon be allowed to reopen playgrounds and pools, as the body of evidence showing virus transmission is much less likely outdoors grows.

A mallard takes off after a bath on top of the closed Sellwood Pool in Portland, Ore., Friday, May 15, 2020. Portland Parks & Recreation closed pools and community centers for the summer to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A mallard takes off after a bath on top of the closed Sellwood Pool in Portland, Ore., Friday, May 15, 2020.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

Playgrounds and public pools will soon be open across Oregon.

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These recreational facilities have been closed in some counties since March, when Oregon Gov. Kate Brown enacted her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders to curb the spread of COVID-19. While pools and playgrounds are already open in counties that have qualified to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of reopening. In Phase 1 counties, pools and playgrounds have remained closed.

But in a press conference Friday, Brown announced that these counties, too, will be able to open playgrounds and public pools.

“We’re gradually looking at reopening some lower-risk activities, such as reopening public pools and playgrounds,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “We are moving forward with science and safety in mind.”

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There are currently no counties in the baseline “stay home, stay safe” phase. But if any counties are rolled back to baseline, their pools and playgrounds will close.

Sidelinger said that reopening is possible for two reasons: the declining COVID-19 transmission rate in the state and ever-increasing evidence that shows transmission 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 social distancing and mask wearing are practiced in bathrooms, locker rooms and places where people tend to gather. Updated guidance released Friday includes instructions for pools and other group recreation centers to enforce social distancing in those areas.

State officials also encouraged Oregonians to exercise additional precautions over the holiday weekend.

“There’s so much at stake if we fail to keep up the pressure,” Sidelinger said “This holiday weekend could erase all those gains if people celebrate in unsafe ways.”

Precautions include avoiding large gatherings, celebrating within your household instead of with people you don’t live with, and wearing masks. Sidelinger also encouraged people to stay near home, so that they don’t spread the virus to parts of the state with lower infection rates.

“Whether we can keep sectors open and operating in a safe manner depends on all of us, continuing to practice the precautions we know to keep COVID-19 at bay,” Sidelinger said.

If cases climb start to rise again, further restrictions may need to be put in place to get the spread of COVID-19 back to a safe level. If case levels continue to drop, some other low-risk activities may resume.

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