All public playgrounds are closed to promote social distancing and limit virus spread among families with children. Town Hill playground, pictured, is closed until April 30, according to Bar Harbor town officials. ISLANDER PHOTO BY BECKY PRITCHARD

Playground closures protect public health

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Playgrounds are closed across the island to promote social distancing and limit virus spread among families with young children. 

The Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) “has not issued any official guidance on playground use,” according to spokesman Robert Long. This leaves the decision of whether to close or open playgrounds up to the schools and municipalities that operate them.  

The CDC does recommend “frequent washing of surfaces,” according to Long, which may be an impossible task for schools that are closed or municipalities whose essential staff is stretched thin.  

Local municipalities and schools separately, but without exception, came to the decision to close public playgrounds. 

After announcing school closure, Superintendent Marc Gousse made it clear that school playgrounds, as well as buildings, would be off-limits. He advised in a Mar. 17 letter to parents that they “avoid use of playgrounds (school and community) and other high-touch areas [or] surfaces when allowing children to play outside.” 

Towns with public playgrounds soon followed the school system’s lead. Bar Harbor announced in a Mar. 31 public statement that playgrounds were closed until April 30, along with town buildings, restrooms and schools. Town Manager Cornell Knight said the concerns with playgrounds specifically were “shared surfaces and the difficulty of maintaining social distance.” He added that the ball fields, with no shared surfaces, are open to the public. 

Mount Desert also announced playground and municipal building closure on April 6, but with no end date. Harbor House in Southwest Harbor announced closing all facilities until April 27, including the large playground near the school playground. 

According to Maine CDC, touching shared surfaces is not the main way the virus is transmitted from person to person. However, it is still possible for a person to contract the virus by “touching a surface or object that the virus is on and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes,” according to a 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) fact sheet. That is why Maine CDC also recommends people wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their face. 

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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