California allows playgrounds to open under stay-home order

West

A sign is posted at Sunnyside Playground during the coronavirus outbreak in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. California changed its rules overnight Wednesday to allow outdoors playgrounds to stay open in regions under strict stay-home orders. San Francisco Mayor London Breed applauded the change and said city playgrounds would reopen Thursday after shutting down earlier this week. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California changed its rules overnight Wednesday to allow outdoor playgrounds to stay open in regions under strict stay-home orders, apparently swayed by broad criticism that closing them would harm children who have few options to safely romp outside.

On its website, the state said playgrounds could stay open to “facilitate physically distanced personal health and wellness through outdoor exercise.”

Ali Bay, a spokesperson for California’s Department of Public Health, said in an email that the change was new as of Wednesday morning and the department was working to share the news more broadly.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has come under heavy criticism for the closure of children’s playgrounds when the administration has repeatedly said being outdoors is safer than being indoors and there is little evidence of virus spread on playground structures.

Playground advocates have said children need fresh air and exercise for their emotional and physical health, and many don’t have access to private backyards. Fraught parents also need a place to take their cooped-up kids, advocates said.

Many of the state’s 40 million residents are subject to the latest round of stay-home orders, although several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area chose to implement their own voluntary orders independent of the state. The voluntary order for San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties also shuttered playgrounds.

But on Twitter, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said that she was happy to learn that the state had changed its order and said city playgrounds would reopen Thursday after closing earlier this week.

“Outdoor activity is important for all of our physical and mental health, especially children,” she said. “But it is imperative that we continue to avoid gatherings with people you don’t live with and wear a mask.”

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