Phoenix reopens playgrounds and some park amenities as COVID-19 cases decline

Arizona News
Caution tape surrounds the children's playground equipment at Kachina Park in Phoenix during the first day of the statewide stay at home order on April 1, 2020.

The caution tape wrapped around Phoenix playgrounds and ball courts is coming down and youth sports are coming back as the city continues to see a decline in COVID-19 cases.

The Phoenix City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to reopen the following park amenities:

  • Park playgrounds.
  • Ball courts.
  • Park restrooms.
  • Picnic tables.
  • Youth sports programs.
  • Outdoor ranger programs.
  • Parks programs and special events.

If cases continue to improve in the next two weeks, the council on Oct. 21 may consider:

  • Reopening some indoor library services.
  • Increasing the number of people who can be on city buses at one time.
  • Reopening the convention center for small events.
  • Increasing in-person services in City Hall.

Phoenix and other area cities began to shut down city buildings, libraries, parks and in-person programs and events in March, when the novel coronavirus began to spread in the community. They have been slowly reopening in the last few months as community spread has declined.

The city is now in the “moderate risk” category for COVID-19 spread, with about 29.3 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, a percent positivity rate of 4.81% for COVID-19 tests and a 2% rate of COVID-like illnesses for hospital visits.

Mayor Kate Gallego said that the city is trying to make smart decisions about what to reopen, and when. She said reopening outdoor park amenities is a responsible decision.

“It comes during a time that Dr. Anthony Fauci has encouraged Americans to spend more time outdoors,” she said, referring to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Parks and trails completely reopened in Phoenix

Phoenix seems to be among the last of large cities in metro Phoenix to reopen park playgrounds, ball courts and other park amenities.

Glendale and Peoria reopened park playgrounds in May, for example.

To check the status of parks and recreation by city, visit the city website for: Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Scottsdale, Surprise and Tempe.

Phoenix will begin reopening the remaining park amenities and outdoor recreation services it had not yet reopened on Thursday.

Phoenix is also no longer limiting access to trails, according to city spokesperson Gregg Bach.

Council discusses safe reopening as schools resume in-person

Dr. Saskia Popescu, who is advising Phoenix on COVID-19 reopening, cautioned that the city may need to shut down amenities, services and programs again if COVID-19 community spread increases.

“Part of public health is knowing when you need to scale back up,” she said.

Councilmembers Carlos Garcia and Michael Nowakowski said they are concerned that cases will increase as some school districts resume in-person classes on Monday, and they are particularly concerned about a few areas that have been hot spots.

They asked staff what the city can do to work with schools to see that they have more testing and other resources they might need to stop the spread of the virus.

Vice Mayor Betty Guardado asked staff to research how it can ensure that city hot spots have more personal protective equipment, testing, cleaning supplies or other needed resources.

Popescu recommended that the city offer schools access to rapid testing so that students can find out quickly if they have the virus.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio said that the city needs to quickly reopen amenities that low-income families rely on so that the city’s wealth disparities do not continue to increase, and the city needs to quickly reopen senior services so that seniors can get more interaction.

“We are failing as leaders by not opening up sooner and not finding a way to get people taken care of,” DiCiccio said.

Reach the reporter at jen.fifield@azcentral.com or at 602-444-8763. Follow her on Twitter @JenAFifield

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