First grader Nicholas Garcia reaches the end of a covered slide at the newly renovated Merced Heights Playground on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

First grader Nicholas Garcia reaches the end of a covered slide at the newly renovated Merced Heights Playground on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco reopens playgrounds for children as COVID-19 cases decline

After a months-long closure due to COVID-19, San Francisco announced Wednesday that its more than 180 playgrounds have reopened.

The reopening, authorized by state health officials last month, comes with a new set of restrictions to limit the spread of the respiratory illness, which will be posted on signs at playgrounds. The restrictions include limits on the number of children who can use play structures at any given time, the need to remain socially distant from people not in the same household and a face covering requirement for those aged two and older.

There is a also a time limit of 30 minutes, and a rule that only one adult may accompany each child.

Mayor London Breed announced the reopening of the playgrounds along with Recreation and Park Department head Phil Ginsburg and Department of Public Health director Dr. Grant Colfax.

“We know kids and parents have been missing playgrounds since the end of March, and I’m excited that we’re now at a place where we can safely reopen them,” Breed said in a statement. “It’s important kids have a place to explore, have fun, and get some outdoor exercise. We hope this brings families and kids some joy during an otherwise challenging time.”

Ginsburg noted the health benefits of children using playgrounds.

“A trip to the playground relieves stress, reduces anxiety, and promotes healthy bodies and imaginations,” Ginsburg said in a statement.

The department will place monitors at the busiest playgrounds for the next two weekends to educate people about the restrictions and ensure compliance.

For the 51 playgrounds without bathroom facilities, The City has placed hand washing stations, which were donated by by Kaiser Permanente and the nonprofit KABOOM!, city officials said. Those who use the playgrounds are advised to wash their hands before and after playing at them.

Other safety tips offered by city officials include visiting playgrounds at times when they will have the fewest people and going to those nearest to home to avoid taking public transit.

Parents are also advised to take a child who starts crying out of the playground to console them since crying can emit a high volume of respiratory droplets. Also, no one should visit a playground if anyone in their household is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

The announcement comes as the number of new cases and hospitalizations continues a downward trend in San Francisco. The number of people newly diagnosed with COVID-19 currently averages 26 people per day in San Francisco, and 29 people are hospitalized due to the illness. Since March, 11,712 persons have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in The City and 123 have died.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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