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State reverses course, allows outdoor playgrounds to reopen under stay-at-home order

California public health officials have backtracked on a decision to close outdoor playgrounds under the state’s stay-at-home order announced Thursday.

Parents, state and local officials asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow outdoor playgrounds to remain open so children can get exercise and fresh air instead of being cooped up at home all day.

In San Francisco, supervisors Tuesday introduced a resolution asking the governor and state health officials to reconsider the closure of playgrounds. As one of the resolution’s sponsors, Supervisor Matt Haney said: 

“It seems clear that we need to provide opportunities for people, especially young people and children, to be able to be outside safely. We are going to continue to have indoor retail and shopping malls open at some level of capacity and yet within this order, there is a complete closure of playgrounds.”

San Francisco Recreation and Park New children’s play structures are just one feature of the renovated Margaret Hayward Playground that reopened Friday, October 30, 2020 in San Francisco, Calif.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who also sponsored the resolution, said kids are suffering after spending months away from school, adding:

“They don’t have places to be kids and need those places if they’re to improve their physical health and their mental health and their assessment.”

Supervisor Ahsha Safai also submitted a letter to the governor echoing the same request.

Without much further explanation, the state responded Wednesday by posting updated guidance permitting playgrounds to reopen.

Mayor London Breed said in a tweet Wednesday that The City’s outdoor playgrounds would reopen Thursday. She said:

“I agree with this decision and it’s important that people can safely exercise and be outdoors. But it is imperative that we continue to avoid gatherings with people you don’t live with and wear a mask.”

The stay-at-home order is effective in regions where ICU bed availability falls below 15 percent. The order requires regions to reduce capacity at all retail stores, including grocery stores, and restaurants are restricted to takeout and delivery only. Personal care services, hair salons, museums and family entertainment venues must all close again.

Two regions so far have fallen below the 15 percent ICU bed capacity threshold — the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions. Five Bay Area counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara — and the city of Berkeley voluntarily implemented the state’s stay-at-home order in response to local hospital surges.

Santa Clara County had dropped to 15 percent ICU availability on Dec. 3. 

The Bay Area stay-at-home order is in effect until Jan. 4 and data will be reassessed at that time.

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