SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Mayor London Breed and other San Francisco officials on Wednesday announced that the city’s outdoor playgrounds have reopened for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Breed and officials including San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg, SF’s District 11 Supervisor Asha Safai and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax were on hand for the announcement at a playground at Merced Heights late Wednesday morning.

The city’s over 180 reopening public playgrounds will have signs posted to remind families and caregivers of capacity limits and other guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Recreation and Park Department monitors will be stationed at the city’s busiest playgrounds for the first two weekends of operation to educate families about the new rules and ensure health guidelines are followed.

“I’m so happy that today, finally, kids will be able to play in playgrounds all over San Francisco,” said Mayor Breed. “It is hard for children right now. Our private schools have opened, our public schools haven’t. This is hard on us as adults’ just imagine how much harder it is on kids.”

The mayor also said five playgrounds in the city were renovated thanks to funds provided by the Let’s Play SF Initiative.

“I know the most important partner in all this is the Department of Public Health, who have as tough a job as anybody right now in trying to figure out how to allow us to safely resume some sense of normalcy,” said Safai. “And I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Colfax and Dr. Aragon and their team for working with us and truly understanding the importance and the urgency of opening up playgrounds.”

Playgrounds are reopening with limits on the number of children and adults who can enter based on the size of the playground as well as limits on the number of children who can use playground equipment at once. To comply with State regulations, playground visits must be limited to 30 minutes when others are present.

“This is a pivotal moment as we work together to slow the spread of COVID and realize that our children must go back to doing the things that we know are important for their health and their family’s health and their community’s health,” said Dr. Colfax. “Returning children to environments where they can learn and play has been a top priority since we were removed from the State watch list on September 1, and the re-opening of playgrounds follows our efforts re-opening out of school programs, community hubs and elementary schools.”

Visitors of all ages must stay six feet away from non-household members and everyone age two and older must wear masks. To maximize the number of children who can play, only one adult may accompany each child, officials said.

Eating and drinking are not allowed, and visitors should clean their hands before and after playing. Hand washing stations have been placed at the 51 playgrounds that do not have restrooms available.

Officials also said that under COVID-19 restrictions, adults providing supervision must actively watch children at all times and avoid non-essential cell phone use. If a caregiver must take a break, children should stay by their side until they can resume. Children younger than two must remain within arm’s reach of a caregiver and are not allowed on play structures that hold more than one child at a time.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health offers families the following tips for safe play at the reopened playgrounds:

  • Go to the playground during days and times when there are fewer people.
  • Choose playgrounds within walking distance of your home instead of taking public transportation.
  • Choose smaller playgrounds with fewer people over larger playgrounds that can hold more people.
  • If your child is crying and cannot be consoled, remove them from the play structure or playground until they are calm, since loud crying can produce a large number of respiratory droplets.
  • If anyone in your household is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, do not visit a playground.
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