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 shutting them down 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 is working to share the news more broadly.
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 indoor operations and there is little evidence of virus spread on play structures.
Playground advocates 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.
Much of the state’s 40 million residents are under this 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 see the state had changed its order and said city playgrounds would reopen tomorrow 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.”