Lawmakers Push Back on State Over Plan to Close Playgrounds

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On Sunday, Assemblyman and San Diego Mayor-elect Todd Gloria asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to reconsider closing outdoor playgrounds. The closure of playgrounds is part of the current stay-at-home order to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Many San Diego parents took their children to the playground Sunday to take advantage of the final hours. Among them were Jesse Aston-Smith, a Pacific Beach resident who took his two daughters to Maruta Gardner Playground in Mission Beach.

“It’s difficult because my girls need to go out, they need to have a life,” said Aston-Smith as he watched his 8 and 10-year-old daughter spin around on playground equipment.

“The risk of playgrounds is mixed,” said Dr. Natasha Bhuyan M.D., a family physician with One Medical.

“On the one hand, playgrounds are safer because they are outdoors, so they are an ideal place for children to play and have fun and there are ways to minimize the risk at playgrounds. On the other, children aren’t always wearing masks at the playground, children are interacting with others,” Bhuyan added.

Bhuyan says there isn’t enough contact tracing data to assess whether or not playgrounds have been the source of any outbreaks, but because transmission in so widespread, public health officials decided to include playgrounds in the stay-at-home order.

The risk of surface transmission is not as high as person to person transmission according to Bhuyan. It’s the risk of person to person transmission that worries some families at the playground.

“I live with my mother-in-law and she’s in her 70’s and she recently had surgery on her lungs so to bring home something could be catastrophic for her,” said Aston-Smith.

Parents at the playground also raised concerns about their children’s ability to socialize outdoors, especially when so much time in spent in front of a screen.

“I’m tired of the Ipad,” said Sukanye Hegde, a San Diego resident.

“This whole generation this year with an iPad and virtual stuff is not good. Kids need to be outside playing. This is not ok,” said Hegde as she watched her 5-year-old daughter play.

While San Diego has a lot of open space, not every child has the same access.

“What I’m worried about is that this will disproportionally impact children from low income or vulnerable families. A lot of times they live in apartments with no backyards so often their options for going outside and playing are limited,” said Bhuyan.

Playgrounds were closed earlier in the pandemic, then reopened in September. While playgrounds equipment will be closed, the parks will stay open.

On Friday, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez also wrote a letter to Gov. Newsom asking him to reconsider the playground closures.

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