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Op-Ed: Over-Cautious Restrictions Taking Away Kids' Summer Opportunities

The following op-ed is written by Rep. Kim Banta (R-Ft. Mitchell)

As we power through this unprecedented time together, I am growing more and more concerned about our younger population.  

Although school districts have done a terrific job of transforming the way education is delivered, kids are still isolated from one another. Now with summer upon us, their need for activity and engagement is growing even faster.

Unfortunately, over-cautious restrictions are taking many summer opportunities for activity away from them. 

With many community pools and parks remaining closed, I fear that healthy outdoor activities are beginning to disappear. How many young people look forward to the opening of the public pool every summer? If pools could do it safely, limit the number of people, and have everyone disinfect properly on the way in, couldn’t we open the pools so young people have a safe outlet?   

Neighborhood parks are another outdoor activity that can be controlled – yet remain closed. We have police officers parked in front of our local parks to keep families out, why not allow a defined number of people in and out.  

Again, stressing social distancing and safe behaviors.  

After three decades in education, I know that teenagers are going to find a way to spend time together and outside, no matter what. They have been quarantined since March. In just the last few weeks, I have seen groups of teenagers forced to sit in parking lots eating take-out food. If their parents can now go into a retail establishment or, beginning June 1st, a gym, isn’t it time we allow kids a visit to a park and pool time outside?  

I passionately believe in keeping our kids healthy and safe. But it is important to remember that mental health can be just as important as physical health. That’s one of the reasons I was proud to vote in favor of Senate Bill 42 this session, a bill that required school districts to include domestic violence, sexual assault, and suicide prevention hotlines on all school IDs, providing access to help. It is why I believe it is time to start opening our community facilities. 

The fact is that the parks and pools in Northern Kentucky are not like in a major metropolitan area such as New York City. The airflow and space in outdoor environments can be incredibly beneficial. Even the Centers for Disease Control has stated that, while the need to clean and disinfect dirty surfaces still exists, there are no documented cases of COVID-19 transmissions from surfaces*. 

Remember, each of us has an individual responsibility to maintain the public health. And if these kids do have high risk family members, they can choose not to go to the pool or park. Just because something is open does not mean you have to participate. But it is becoming increasingly important that, as we begin returning to normal, we keep the kids in our community in mind.

It is time that we give them the happy, and healthy, summer that they need.