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As local agencies continue to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, outdoor facilities are shut to the public.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Tigard City Councilor John Goodhouse kayaks along the Tualatin River in Cook Park during a friendly competition between local political figures in 2016.Both the Tigard Parks & Recreation Department and the Tigard-Tualatin School District announced Saturday, March 21, that they are temporarily closing their facilities — even outdoor spaces — to the public in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Oregon is bracing for an expected surge in COVID-19 cases. Tigard previously closed city buildings, including City Hall and the Tigard Public Library, to the public. The Tigard-Tualatin School Board voted March 12 to close schools, a closure that has since been extended by order of Gov. Kate Brown until at least April 28.

On Saturday, both the city government and the school district increased the scope of their closures. They are now telling community members to stay out of their parks and fields and off their play equipment for the time being.

"These measures will help stop the spread of this deadly virus and save lives," the school district stated.

Tigard city trails and open spaces remain open to the public, but athletic courts and play equipment will be cordoned off.

"You can access the rest of the park but we ask that you avoid congregating in large groups," the city stated on Twitter Sunday morning, March 22.

Tigard city spokesperson Kent Wyatt encouraged community members to spread the word about the parks closure.

"While this was a difficult decision, our top priority is the health and safety of the community," Wyatt said in an email. "It's crucial that we avoid congregating in parks and elsewhere during this time period."

The Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District, which neighbors Tigard to the north and covers the Beaverton area, also announced new restrictions Sunday. THPRD playgrounds are closed, although athletic courts and fields remain open, albeit with limits on what activities are allowed.

COVID-19 is thought to be spread through tiny respiratory droplets, such as those emitted by coughing or sneezing. The virus can live on some surfaces, including metal and plastic, for days.

While older adults and those with underlying health conditions are believed to be at greater risk of complications from the virus, younger people can become seriously ill as well. Studies also suggest that people who experience mild to no symptoms, including younger people, can still transmit the virus and contribute to its epidemic spread.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Oregon and the United States has rapidly multiplied, and many health systems — including Portland-area hospitals — have expressed concern that they will be unable to safely care for all patients without dramatic increases in bed capacity, ventilators and other medical technology, and personal protective equipment like sterile masks, gowns and gloves.

Brown and other state and local officials have implored Oregonians to stay home if possible and practice proper hygiene and social distancing tactics, including regularly washing hands and sanitizing surfaces, keeping six feet away from other people, and avoiding gatherings.

Some states and cities have actually ordered people to remain at home unless absolutely necessary. A group of Portland-area mayors, which includes Tigard Mayor Jason Snider and Tualatin Mayor Frank Bubenik, have called on Brown to issue a similar order.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify trails and open spaces in Tigard parks are still open to the public, but play areas are closed, as well as with information on closures in neighboring Beaverton.

By Mark Miller
Washington County Editor
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