To combat the spread of novel coronavirus, the Seattle Public Library is closing all of its locations temporarily, and Seattle Parks and Recreation is closing all community centers, pools, environmental learning centers and other recreation facilities, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Thursday.
Parks and Recreation also is canceling all programming, rentals and permitted events, Durkan’s office said in a news release.
The closures will take effect Friday at 6 p.m. and will last until at least April 13. The move will be a blow for people who rely on Seattle’s libraries and community centers for books, computer access, classes, exercise, social interactions and daytime shelter.
Homeless people will have fewer places to be off the streets, and families whose schools have closed due to the outbreak will have fewer places to bring children.
Researchers are estimating there are 1,100 active cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, in the region, the release said. Without actions such as closing libraries and community centers, the region could see 25,000 people infected by early April, according to the release, which also mentioned Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent ban on events more than 250 people and on smaller events that don’t meet social distancing and hygiene guidance.
“We did not take this decision lightly,” Durkan said in a statement. “We know that our libraries and community centers serve as important neighborhood hubs and provide essential services to our residents.”
She added, “But we also know that, given the high volume of people who pass through our facilities each day, it would be extremely difficult to implement the mandatory public health guidance as it relates to social distancing.”
Because homeless people and others use community centers for hygiene services, Parks and Recreation will continue its shower program at the Delridge, Green Lake, Meadowbrook, Miller and Rainier community centers, and all Parks and Recreation bathrooms and hand washing stations will stay open, the city said.
All library bathrooms will be closed, however, reducing hygiene options for people living without shelter.
The city will allow preschool programs that operate in community centers to stay open for now, the release said.
The library will continue to provide digital services, such as e-books and e-audiobooks, streaming movies, television and music services and free access to online magazines and newspapers, the city said.
Also, the library is extending loan periods; patrons will not need to return materials until locations open again.
“We recognize the impact that this closure will have on our residents and visitors, but it is critical that we support the health and safety of our communities,” Parks Superintendent Jesús Aguirre said in a statement.
“While it is difficult to make the decision to close our libraries to respond to COVID-19, I know it is the right one for the health and safety of our public, staff and volunteers,” added Marcellus Turner, Seattle’s chief librarian.
“We encourage all cardholders to explore our rich collection of digital resources during this period of limited social contact and limited recreational options … We will be looking at other creative ways to serve our community during this time.”