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Families relieved to have playgrounds reopened

Without access to city playgrounds for two months, Hastings area families are relieved to have that outlet once again.

That’s how Jeff Hassenstab, director of the Hastings Parks and Recreation Department, described the public’s return to playgrounds after playgrounds were reopened Monday.

City playgrounds and outdoor equipment had been partitioned off with yellow caution tape since March 30. Public restrooms also were closed.

Public restrooms reopened on Monday, as well, with enhanced cleaning procedures.

“There’s been probably a slow, steady crowd on the playgrounds. Nothing overwhelming,” Hassenstab said during an interview Tuesday afternoon. “The skate park was really busy (Monday). Those kids were excited to be out skating around. The playgrounds, I did see some families using them (Monday). There’s kind of a sense of relief to get back to somewhat normal and something else to do for the kids to get outside and enjoy the playgrounds.”

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune/  

Korbyn Deveny plays Monday afternoon at Chautauqua Park. The Hastings Parks and Recreation Department reopened some facilities June 1 with extra safety protocols in place because of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Susan Klusman of Hastings was among parents glad to be able to visit playgrounds again. She visited the Libs Park playground Monday with her 3 1/2–year-old son, Nolan.

She said it was rough not to be able to use playground equipment.

“We come to the playground a lot,” she said.

Not being able to visit playgrounds has taken a toll, Klusman said.

“So, now that it has opened back up we’re just trying to be responsible about coming out and playing,” she said.

The novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic has affected quality of life in Hastings over the last three months.

“Of course that’s our mission — is providing the best quality of life we can for the Hastings community,” Hassenstab said. “When we had to shut them down, that’s not an easy decision and it’s not something we take lightly. On the flip side, when we had to reopen them back up again it’s not an easy decision and it’s not something we take lightly. We’re happy we can do it. We feel like bringing back that quality of life for the community, for the residents, for the kids is something that’s our mission and if it can provide some type of getting back to normal that’s great. We hope to continue on in the future with that.”

The downward trend in virus cases played a major role in the Parks and Rec Department’s decision in this initial reopening.

The Libs Park splash pad will reopen June 8. The Heartwell Park wading pool and Lincoln Park wading pool will be open to the public on June 15. A decision on whether the Hastings Aquacourt water park can open this summer remains to be announced.

“For us, the skate park, the playgrounds and the restrooms were priority number one and then going from there,” Hassenstab said. “The troubling thing for us is we’ve been on standby or on hold for a while. Some facilities are easy to open up right away, and some take a little bit more time.”

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

City of Hastings employee Wyatt Powell sprays a disinfectant in the bathrooms at Chautauqua Park Wednesday.

Park restrooms are getting cleaned and sanitized once a day.

The restrooms always have been cleaned daily.

“I would say this year is more of a thorough cleaning we are doing once a day,” Hassenstab said.

He said in the past park restrooms were picked up and sprayed down as needed.

“This year they are getting sprayed down every day,” he said. “They are getting disinfected every day.”

Once the splash pad and wading pools reopen, Parks and Rec employees will disinfect “common touch” surfaces there.

“We’ve never done that in the past, but we plan to do that every day when those do open up,” Hassenstab said.


Covid-19
Hastings cancels Fourth of July festivities in Brickyard Park

The city of Hastings’ annual Fourth of July concert and fireworks show at Brickyard Park has been canceled amid ongoing health concerns with the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic.

The city announced the decision in a news release at noon Wednesday.

The Hastings Parks and Recreation Department made the decision after reviewing current state-directed health measures regarding large events.

“The current restrictions make hosting the event unachievable while following gathering restrictions and social distancing guidelines,” the news release stated.

The event normally involves concessions in the park beginning in the late afternoon, an evening concert in the Brickyard Park amphitheater, and a nighttime fireworks show coordinated by the Hastings Volunteer Fire Department.

Plans call for the event to resume as normal in 2021.


Covid-19
Blood donations needed

As elective surgeries start back up after a temporary shutdown ordered by the state earlier this spring, donors are needed to help replenish blood supplies.

The American Red Cross has put extra safety measures in place to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

Josh Murray, regional communications director for the Nebraska-Iowa Region of the American Red Cross, said blood drives and donation centers follow the highest standards of safety and infection control. Organizers have added more precautions to prevent the spread of germs during the outbreak.

“We’re taking it up another level to make sure we’re extra safe at this time,” he said.

Precautions include checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive, providing hand sanitizer, and increasing routines to disinfect surfaces and equipment.

Staff and donors will be wearing face masks, staff will change gloves often, and participants will be asked to follow social distancing practices between donors, including donor beds, waiting areas and refreshment tables.

The Red Cross asks donors to make appointments to help manage the flow of donors and ensure social distancing practices are followed. These mitigation measures will help ensure staff and donor safety in reducing contact with those who may potentially have coronavirus, or any respiratory infection.

Murray said that many blood drives have been canceled over the last several weeks as regular venues such as churches and schools closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Demand for blood also decreased as elective surgeries were put on hold; but as those procedures are rescheduled, the need for blood has returned.

“We’ve just seen the supply really dwindle over the last week or two weeks,” he said. “We’re just trying to make sure we maintain a steady supply.”

To help with that, members of the police and fire departments in the Tri-cities are hosting Battle of the Badges blood drives next week. Departments will engage in a friendly competition to see who can recruit the most blood donors.

A total of 350 units of blood were collected in the two previous years of the drive, according to a news release from the Red Cross. Donors will receive a commemorative “Battle of the Badges” T-shirt. Additionally, everyone who comes to donate at a Red Cross blood drive during the month of June will receive a $5 Amazon gift card.

In Hastings, the blood drive will be held Monday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Hastings City Auditorium, 400 N. Hastings Ave. Appointments are encouraged to help maintain social distancing.

For an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or email Hastings Fire Capt. Darin Clark at dclark@hastingsfire.org or Hastings Police Capt. Mike Doremus at MDoremus@hastingspolice.org to sign up for a team.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card, driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood.

High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

The Red Cross supplies about 40% of the blood in the United States. Across the nation, there is about a two-day supply of the most common, Type O. The stockpile of the other types would only last about three days.

Murray said donations generally dip in the summer months, so the blood drives with police and fire departments are important to maintain supplies. As the nation struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, he said donating blood can help people in need.

“This is one way to be a positive influence,” he said. “Come out and give to help out your community.”


Treasurer's Office closes for 2 weeks due to COVID-19

After being open just one day, the Adams County Treasurer’s Office is closed again for another two weeks after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19.

Adams County temporarily suspended public access to the Treasurer’s Office on March 27. The Treasurer’s Office, located in the county courthouse, reopened Wednesday.

Scott Thomsen, a member of the Adams County Board of Supervisors who chairs the county’s buildings, grounds and equipment committee, said the courthouse was running like a clock on Wednesday.

Security personnel ensured there were 25 or fewer people in all different areas of the courthouse. They took temperatures of people entering the courthouse and had water available for visitors, who waited outside the south main entrance for their turns to enter the building.

The building saw 415 visitors on Wednesday— a big increase over the 40-100 people each day between mid-March and mid-May.

“Everything just worked out fine,” Thomsen said. “Then at the end of the day a test result came back positive.”

At the advice of the South Heartland District Health Department, he said, the Treasurer’s Office will be closed two weeks while the entire department quarantines.

The rest of the courthouse will remain open.

“I just don’t want people standing out there and getting grumpy because they thought it would be open,” Thomsen said of the Treasurer’s Office. “Maybe if they knew it wasn’t open they wouldn’t have to drive up there.”