New rules create do's and don'ts in Seattle parks
There are new restrictions on the use of public parks in Seattle and King County. Playgrounds and sports fields are closed to avoid spread of the coronavirus. But lots of people still come out to play.
Barak Gaster is a primary care physician with U.W. Medicine in Seattle. He’s one of many doctors whose work has been transformed in the wake of the coronavirus. “It’s been really hard and stressful and complicated and that’s because things have been so uncertain and changing so quickly,” he said.
It’s pretty much the opposite of the relaxed atmosphere he found in Volunteer Park this weekend. “There’s definitely joggers and families and picnickers…it’s gorgeous out here,” he said.
So does Gaster want these people to go home? Are we jeopardizing one another’s health by going to the parks? He says…no. As long as you’re keeping that 6-foot distance from other people. He said, “It’s important for us to stay active, it’s important for us to stay social with each other as much as we safely can.”
But. There are some important caveats here. Gaster said people should abide by the rules against organized sports and using playgrounds. “A jungle gym that 400 kids have run their hands over all day long is not a safe situation,” he said.
And he emphasized that at the first sign of illness, self-distancing is no longer enough. You have to stay home. “It is so important to healthcare workers, to society at large, to immediately self-isolate yourself,” he said. “And it’s really important to think about how that’s different” from keeping a 6-foot perimeter, as those without symptoms are asked to do.
A King County spokesman said there hasn’t been active enforcement against park users, just signage at playgrounds and the climbing wall in Marymoor Park reminding people those spaces are closed.
But Seattle Police officers did monitor parks over the weekend and warn people not to congregate. Officers wearing masks told people along Lake Union that “right now” it’s a voluntary request but warned them that the parks are overcrowded and people need to follow public health guidelines. SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb said officers are supporting Seattle Parks staff and asking people to maintain social distancing.
People flocked to Greenlake Park on Saturday but said they are trying to balance the needs for recreation and safety.
Robert Polakoff used the fitness equipment but wiped it with Clorox wipes before and after. “And I ran with my son around the lake,” he said. “We were constantly swerving around people, leaving a six-foot barrier as best as we could.”
Kate Sawyer’s daughter was nearly alone roaming the playground. “We have a three year old, so we’re social distancing by being the only ones at the park,”she said. “Probably not a good idea to be at a packed playground right now.”
Chao Duan was close behind his two young children with a bottle of hand sanitizer as they played. “I think it’s okay as long as you keep some distance,” he said. “At the park right now you notice that it’s not as crowded as it used to be, so it’s kind of okay.”
And 82-year old Thomas Cross said he hasn’t yet been deterred from his usual Saturday walk around the lake. “We’re taking care of mental health and getting out. Walking around Greenlake doesn’t seem too harmful,” he said. “I play in various music groups, they’ve been cancelled. I volunteer at a hospital, can’t do that anymore. So we’re still adjusting. I’m probably just in a bit of denial about it all.”