As social distancing measures stretch into the summertime, public health directors have had some reminders this week for those planning summer activities.
During Panhandle Public Health District calls this week, officials clarified that persons spending time outdoors continue to need to follow social distancing rule and other steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
During a call this week, Scotts Bluff County Public Health Director Paulette Schnell said that people need to continue to practice spacing out six-feet apart, limiting the size of groups, washing hands or using hand sanitizer and wearing a mask.
“I think sometimes people think that if you are outside that the 10 or less rule does not apply if you are outside,” she said Wednesday. “The 10 people or less rule applies whether you are inside or outside. I think sometimes people think if you are outside that you can be in a group of 10 or more. If you are close together, whether you are inside or out, it can spread really easy. It’s really important to keep that six feet, limit the group and wear a mask.”
Signs will go up at local parks, reminding people that as they get out to enjoy the sunshine, that they do need to continue to practice social distancing. Playground equipment at many parks continue to be closed in many communities by municipalities.
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PPHD officials said that playgrounds are definitely a place that people gather.
Engel said, “Kids are really great at spreading germs themselves so there could be a danger there. We can’t wait to see kids playing in playgrounds again, and I know cities feel that way too.”
Some cities are still weighing whether or not to open community swimming pools. Some have made decisions to close, while others have decided to open, but with strict guidelines. Concerns at swimming pools have included keeping the bath areas, countertops and even ladders clean.
On Wednesday, health officials were asked about a golf tournament planned for this weekend. Many area golf clubs have remained open, including plans at one local club for a golf club this weekend. Engel said that local golf courses have reached out to PPHD and they have prepared guidance.
PPHD director Kim Engel said that though health officials do “get nervous” when there are large gatherings, she did think that organizers could hold an event safely, if organizers and players remember social distancing and other measures.
Recommendations from PPHD that many courses have followed including such steps as putting foam noodles into holes so that people do not have to reach into holes, putting away rakes and ball washers, and limiting the amount of people in a cart and staggering start times.
‘We really do want to see people get outside and do exercise,” Engel said.
Engel many activities do require people to think about taking precautions and not congregating in large crowds. PPHD officials provided information Wednesday and Thursday for garage sales, which is available on the organization’s Facebook page, and have advised that community garage sales are not advised this year.
Though state parks are closed to overnight camping and have limited some activities, people can enjoy those recreation areas. Tim Newman, Region 22 Emergency Manager, said Wednesday that state parks and other similar facilities have limited camping because officials are concerned about opening bathhouses and restrooms. RV camping is being allowed because those persons would have their own facilities.
As state officials open up areas, and ensure that there is not an increase in cases, more activities and other things will open up. The main goal is to ensure that the virus is not spreading and there is not a large influx in cases, health officials said this week.
During Friday’s briefing, officials announced three more coronavirus cases: Two teen females and one female in her 20s. All three were identified as close contacts of a previously positive case. On Thursday, health officials reminded parents of teens and teens to practice social distancing, as cases involving teens have increased in recent weeks, not comprising the majority of cases in the Panhandle. Twenty teens, ages 10 to 19, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since March 2.
The current number of cases in the Panhandle is reported to be 82, with 54 recovered. Scotts Bluff County has had the most cases, now at 51 cases since March 2.
There are 28 active cases: two in Cheyenne County; one in Dawes County; six in Morrill County and 19 in Scotts Bluff County.