Parks are open during stay-at-home order — but officials warn against gathering for sports, using playground equipment

Parks officials across the area have posted signs like this discouraging the use of playgrounds during COVID-19 mitigation.

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State and county orders about the need to practice social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t kept some groups of people from gathering at parks and playing fields for organized games in recent days.

With the metro-wide stay-at-home order now in effect, officials are reminding Shawnee Mission area residents that, even though parks remain open, there is a limit of 10 on the number of people who can congregate — and even smaller groups pose a risk for spreading the virus.

Scattered reports came in over the weekend that groups of people were gathering for games of soccer, flag football and other activities at parks in Johnson County.

County officials said these gatherings put people at risk of coronavirus infection.

“The risk of a broad community spread of coronavirus is high,” said Sanmi Areola, MD, director of JCDHE. “It a real and serious threat to the health of our citizens. This is why Johnson County, KDHE, CDC and several agencies are working hard to minimize potential adverse consequences. Even if you are not at risk, you may spread the virus to those that are, and will definitely contribute to its spread in our community. This is why we have been taking these social distancing measures.”

Officer Danny Chavez of the Lenexa Police Department said a group of adults were playing flag football on Saturday at Little Mill Creek North Park when officers arrived and told them about the public gathering limit of 10 people.

“The group was polite and dispersed without issue,” Chavez said.

There have also been organized games of soccer on the Indian Hills Middle School fields.

Areola said it is OK and encouraged to use parks as a place for walking and exercise, so long as people stay 6 feet away from others. In fact, there is no limit on the number of people that can be in a park. But organized games pose a transmission risk.

“Playing soccer allows contact beyond the time and space that we know reduces the risk of transmission,” he added. “We ask for the continuing cooperation of the public. We are in this together. Your cooperation is very important to our collective efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of coronavirus. Stay strong, stay safe, stay home and stay healthy.”

Here are some facts and recommendations from Johnson County and various cities on practicing social distancing, especially at parks:

  • Parks and trails remain open. It is OK to use parks for walking and exercise.
  • Keep 6 feet apart from others in the park.
  • Do not touch playground equipment. Playground equipment is not sanitized daily.
  • There is no limit to the number of people allowed in a park.