St. John’s hiring summer staff, but mayor says programming may not happen

Mayor Danny Breen says city park staff will be hired, but summer programs might not go ahead. (Stephen Miller/CBC)

While there’s still no clear timeline for when daily life will to return to normal, the City of St. John’s doesn’t want to be caught unprepared when public health restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 are eventually lifted.

Mayor Danny Breen told CBC Radio’s On The Go on Thursday the city plans to move forward with retaining seasonal staff to maintain city parks, so they’re ready to reopen to the public when that time comes.

The city is also still hiring staff for recreational summer programs, in the hope there may be at least part of a regular summer.

But Breen acknowledges that might not happen.

“We’ll be making a decision shortly on what programs, if any, will be offered this summer,” he said. “That’s something we want to be prepared for, in case, but it will certainly depend on the situation at the time that we have to make that decision.”

Bowring Park’s waterslide and pool may not get much use this summer if parks remain closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

The provincial government has said the province is still in the early stages of COVID-19 spread, and projection models point to a possible surge in cases at some point in the fall.

Breen said the city may hire fewer summer staff than in previous years, not knowing when — or if — parks, pools, sports or summer camps will be open to the public.

“The chances of having those summer programs, given where we are right now, I don’t think it looks very positive,”  he said.

As of Friday, 100 cases of COVID-19 are located in St. John’s, according to the provincial government’s website.

Prior to the pandemic, 175 casual summer positions in the city’s recreation division were needed to fill its summer programs. A city spokesperson told CBC News on Friday if there is an option to offer some level of programming and services during the summer months, some or all of these employees may be hired. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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