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Columbia Parks and Rec prepares for possible mask-wearing requirement


Columbia Parks and Recreation officials are looking at ways to remain open if mask-wearing in public is required.

Department director Mike Griggs said Wednesday if mask-wearing in the public is required there will have to be allowances for non-mask situations.

The local health department is drawing up an ordinance that would require people to wear masks in public places in Columbia after Mayor Brian Treece asked City Manager John Glascock last week to draft an ordinance for the city council to consider.

Treece called it a "simple public health initiative" to slow the spread of COVID-19 as infections continue to rise.

Scott Clardy, assistant director of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, said that as more research has been done about COVID-19 the health department thinks mask-wearing would be beneficial.

Griggs said an exception to mask-wearing in restaurants while people eat could be an example of how other activities are done as well.

"We think that same thing is going to happen to the pool," Griggs said "Maybe, if you're not swimming, you have to have a mask, but if you're swimming, a mask would actually be a liability."

Griggs said enforcing rules requiring swimmers to wear a mask in a pool would be difficult. He said experts say people safe from the novel coronavirus when their heads are underwater and in chlorine.

Griggs said pools could remain open but still use social distancing by having families stay in designated zones in the pool.

"So when you come with your family ... we're going to set an area where that's your zone, so you can stay there," Griggs said. "And that way, close contact is fine, because you're living together."

Griggs said when the players in recreational sports are out of the field they would not wear masks.

Griggs said spectators could wear masks and possibly the athletes when they enter the dugout, where social distancing measures cannot be met.

When it comes to enforcing mask-wearing Griggs said it can be done in spaces where staff members are already there. The department could look at reassigning duties or hiring more staff.

"What we may have to do is hire someone who's not like a lifeguard," Griggs said. "Who can maybe be that pool deck attendant to kind of walk around and just encourage people to put the mask back on or space out."

Griggs said that can be done at athletic complexes as well.

There are some locations in Columbia Parks and Rec jurisdiction that do not have staff nearby, such as picnic shelters, playgrounds or trials.

Griggs said Parks and Rec hopes to receive guidance from the ordinance on how to best enforce mask-wearing in the non-staffed locations.

Griggs said if a renter has an event like a birthday party, Parks and Rec could work with them on following whatever guidance is given.

"I think it's just all about how the ordinance will be written," Griggs said. "If it's a recommended mask, that's one thing but if it's a required mask ... that's when we will enforce the rules so so it really will depend on how the ordinance is written here."

Health department officials said they will have the ordinance complete for the council's next meeting on Monday.

Stay up-to-date on this developing story here and on ABC 17 News at 5pm & 6pm.

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Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.


1 Comment

  1. Well here’s a common sense and reasoning idea. If you can’t wear masks at a public place that’s been mandated then that place shouldn’t be open at all. Why? Because it’s obvious that social distancing isn’t going to work in this area. Covid-19 is so bad that the city thinks we need to wear masks that I don’t think people need to be by each other swimming I don’t think need people need me playing baseball I don’t think people need to playing football, etc. And I’m still trying to figure out why the County and City and the Country for that matter would take the risk of letting our young children go back to school before a vaccine is ready or some serious serious serious things have been implemented to ensure their health safety in all areas at all times.

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