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Playgrounds are set to reopen, with social distancing and mask wearing

Playgrounds throughout San Diego County are expected to be reopened this week.
(Hayne Palmour IV / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

County and city officials hope to have outdoor play structures reopened by this weekend.

Parents and children who have spent months passing by shuttered playgrounds can expect to spend time on park swings and slides as early as this week, San Diego city and county officials say.

Local jurisdictions were informed late Sept. 28 of the state’s decision to reopen outdoor, publicly accessible parks, and the the county and city are making plans to reopen play spaces. County playgrounds could open as soon as Wednesday, Sept. 30, while the city is shooting for Saturday, Oct. 3.

“One of the questions I’m asked most often is ‘Why aren’t playgrounds open?’ and I‘ve had to say because for some reason the state still had them on the closed list,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer said Sept. 29. “It’s like this essential part of life for any parent had been forgotten. Outdoor activity and public playgrounds are so important for children, particularly for families who don’t have a backyard of their own, so finally reopening them just makes sense and is long overdue.”

During a midday news conference, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services and a Los Angeles resident, said he believes the new playground guidance his office just released — which emphasizes continued social distancing and mask wearing — is capable of preventing transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus even when young people use shared equipment.

Saying his own kids are “itching to get out there,” Ghaly said he is unaware of “any significant outbreaks traced to a park.”

Theme parks, however, remain closed. Asked for an update on when the state might specify how those destinations can reopen, Ghaly said guidance is “not quite” finished “but we’re getting very close.”

Family entertainment centers also must remain closed.

In an effort to open all 289 playgrounds in the city of San Diego by the weekend, parks and recreation employees will be visiting each play area to conduct capacity assessments and prepare the locations for social distancing markings and signs.

Any tape or barriers will be removed by Friday, Oct. 2, and staff members will continue to monitor playgrounds after they are open to ensure that public health requirements are being adhered to.

The new playground guidelines include:

  • Face coverings are required for everyone 2 and older.
  • Physical distance must be maintained among household groups, and children must be accompanied by a caregiver at all times.
  • Visits should be limited to 30 minutes when others are present.
  • No eating or drinking will be allowed in playground areas to ensure everyone wears a mask at all times.
  • Visitors should wash or sanitize their hands before and after using the playground.

The state also recommends that senior citizens and others in at-risk populations avoid playgrounds when other people are present.