As the sun sank behind the horizon earlier this week, shadows overtook the area. A gentle breeze slowly pushed the empty swing back and forth, but no squeals of enjoyment accompanied the movement. Instead, the ruffle of yellow tape stretched around the playground snapping in the wind made up the entire soundtrack of park.
It was a haunting scene.
No children running around and climbing on the jungle gym. No one careening down the slides. No one enjoying the outdoor recreation.
Under normal circumstances, it would be clear something horrific had happened in this park and everything was cordoned off because it was a crime scene.
In a way, it kind of is, but nothing horrible has happened yet, at least as far as we know.
The playground in the park down the street from my home is closed. This is due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Seeing the playground wrapped in what appears to be crime-scene tape is the most striking thing I have seen so far during this whole ordeal. There have been incredible images on television and in other forms of media, but this was the one thing I have personally witnessed that has stuck with me the most.
It seems to demonstrate the deeper impacts of this pandemic. It doesn’t show anyone dead. It just shows how life is being severely altered, even at the most mundane levels.
The playground might not be a crime scene, but it could become one if one sick child touched the equipment and left COVID-19 for the next youngster who came along. If that second, unsuspecting child got sick and died or gave it to a susceptible grandparent or loved one who died, the epicenter of death would be that playground.
The City of Moundridge closed the playground to help curb the spread of the virus, which was the right move.
Such steps are necessary in this time of uncertainty, especially as McPherson County has eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 1:05 p.m. on April 4, according the City of Moundridge’s Facebook Page posting.
The numbers in this part of the state have been on the rise with new cases coming to light each day.
It’s sad, though, the playgrounds had to be closed.
I completely support and understand the decision, but it is difficult to explain to my young daughter why she can’t go play. Sure, the state of Kansas is under stay-at-home orders, so we couldn’t go even if the playground was open, but that’s even more difficult to explain.
Instead, we just have to tell her that the playground is closed and that the equipment needs cleaned before it will be open again.
Of course, I’ve also seen empty shelves at Walmart and stickers on the floors at stores helping people visualize what 6-feet-apart looks like for social distancing.
Those strike me too, but they don’t resonate with me like a playground that could easily become a place of viral spread. A place that is normally happy and fun could easily become a place of sorrow and loss.
A playground cordoned off with yellow tape is spooky and drives home the seriousness of this situation.
This is a matter of life and death. Choose life. Stay home. Wash your hands.