MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — Public playgrounds have been closed for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now there is a petition urging local leaders to reopen them, or set guidelines for when they can.
When the pandemic hit, playgrounds were among the first things to close.
“If you open up a playground such as this one behind me, we are basically inviting people to come and congregate in large groups.” Says Mike Hernandez, Director of Parks and Recreations, City of McAllen
The City of McAllen manages more than 100 city playgrounds, and say they are having discussions to reopen them.
“We considered doing something come February, unfortunately with the spike that we had after the holidays, that’s been put on hold.” Says Hernandez
It’s similar in other Rio Grande Valley cities, Harlingen and Mission are still closed.
In Brownsville, they approved a pilot program where one playground in each district will be reopened, and there are plans to expand that program.
Edinburg city officials say they will soon be making an announcement about reopening them.
Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo, says allowing kids to play in groups or with others outside your home is always a risk.
“If your kids are so young they can’t keep their hands out their noses there is more risk to them. For older kids who know how to use sanitizer, and keep their hands off their faces and out their noses, out of their mouths, you know the risk is low.” Says Dr. Castillo
The City of McAllen says they will reopen when COVID-19 numbers go down and safety protocols such as cleaning and monitoring can be put in place.
“We understand parents are anxious, and they want to make sure their children have the ability to play in the playground, but their health and their safety, their wellbeing is something the City of McAllen doesn’t take lightly.” Says Hernandez
We also reached out to County Judge Richard Cortez, who was named in the petition. Judge Cortez issued us this statement:
“I appreciate local residents petitioning their government for action. In this case, when I learned of the petition regarding playgrounds, I asked that an item be placed on the Commissioners Court agenda to discuss this.
My personal view is that I must see evidence that these public play spaces pose no danger to our children and that there is a practical way to keep all this equipment sanitized. I am also mindful that children who get infected with the virus can become carriers and infect their parents and grandparents who are much more vulnerable to the disease. We must look to the community as a whole and not just ourselves when making these safety decisions.”