Even with the threat of a new, more contagious COVID-19 variant the playgrounds in Regina’s public parks that were cordoned off for most of last year are now fully accessible to the public. And full.
Chris Mlazgar, a Regina resident who works from home, was attending Candy Cane Park on Wascana drive with his family on Saturday. His children are homeschooled and haven’t been affected by schools going back to remote learning, which both Regina school boards announced will be happening this week. Mlazgar maintained that bringing his children to the playground is very important to them and low risk.
“I don’t think a lot of the transference is happening at playgrounds,” said Mlazgar.
“So coming to a place like this with the kids, we’ll just sanitize our hands when we get out of the car and when we’re about to leave. So I don’t see too much of a danger … but coming to the park is just nice to get some change in scenery and burn off a little more energy than they would be able to at home.”
Both the Regina Catholic and Regina Public School divisions announced Friday they would be moving to “temporary remote learning,” with Grades 9-12 moving online March 24 and all other grades making the transition on March 29. In-school classes for all grades in both divisions are scheduled to recommence April 12.
The main reason for this move is the new Covid-19 variant, the B.1.1.7 strain, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. The majority of the 156 confirmed variant cases are located in Regina. The B.1.1.7 variant “is associated with increased transmissibility,” according to the CDC.
Mlazgar wasn’t overly concerned about its arrival in Regina.
“I’m not too worried about Regina having something different,” he said. “The way I see it there’s always going to be some sort of variant … I think that they’re just going to roll out the vaccine for the variant when the time comes.”
Melissa Lozinsky, a Regina resident and mother of two, is more cautious. Lozinsky’s four-year- old daughter Adeline has proven to be more susceptible to getting sick and has led the family to only utilize the open spaces at the city’s parks, not the playgrounds themselves.
“We have used the playgrounds in the past when the numbers were low,” said Lozinsky. “But Adeline never gets out, she doesn’t have a great immune system.
“She picks up everything when we go out. So we went to a playground once in December and she had a terrible, viral, stomach flu the day after. Maybe it’s unrelated but since then we’ve avoided playgrounds.”
Due to her symptoms, Adeline was tested for COVID-19.
“She came back negative and we thought she would,” said Lozinsky. “But it was just really eye opening.”
Lozinsky admits the lockdown has been hard for her children, especially her son Jack who is in Grade 1.
“We’ve seen a real change this past year,” she said. “He used to be a real outgoing, social kid and he was very disappointed he couldn’t see his friends.
“But he was very anxious when school started again in the fall. He didn’t understand how he was able to go back because Covid is still here. So it’s been a real adjustment for him.”
Even with her family’s experiences, Lozinsky doesn’t criticize anyone for using the play structures. However, she is curious if the city is considering shutting them down now that schools are going remote yet again.
“I’ve tried not to judge other people, this is a very new experience and it is really whatever you’re comfortable with as long as you’re not breaking a public health order,” said Lozinsky.
“I kind of question why they’re not shutting down the playgrounds if they’re closing schools right now, why not take that extra precaution?”
The City of Regina commented on the situation through a written statement:
“We are and will continue to follow the lead of public health officials. The City’s first priority is ensuring the safety of the community, this will guide our decision-making as we get through these challenging times, both in our current services and in planning for the future.”