SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — California quietly changed its regional stay-home order to allow playgrounds to reopen in areas impacted by restrictions, state health officials confirmed Wednesday.

The order, announced last Thursday, originally made outdoor playgrounds off-limits as a way to curb surging coronavirus cases across the state. Other spaces shut down during the order included outdoor dining at restaurants.

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The state received significant criticism over the closure of the park, including from government officials like San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who wrote Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health a letter expressing her concerns.

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“We have the second highest concentration of Latino population, which has been disproportionately impacted, we have a lot of renters, a lot of families in overcrowded housing that don’t have access to a backyard,” Safai said at the time.

The state heard Safai and others’ complaints and quietly changed the order Wednesday.

Many celebrated the change in the order on social media.

Many Bay Area counties voluntarily imposed the stay-home orders, so reopening their playgrounds will be determined by them.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted that the city would reopen playgrounds Thursday.

San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg celebrated the decision in a statement.

“Playgrounds are not luxuries. They are essential spaces, particularly for kids in dense, urban neighborhoods. A large body of research has shown playgrounds boost mental and physical health, sharpen problem solving and coping skills, and even ease the effects of trauma,” Ginsburg wrote. “I am grateful to Governor Newsom and Mayor Breed for making a decision based on both science and equity and prioritizing the wellbeing of families.”

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Now that the state has given it’s OK, counties and cities are wasting no time reopening their playgrounds.

Word spread quickly. Kimberly Hernandez brought her two cousins, Miguelito and Bella, to Doyle Hollis playground in Emeryville before the city had time to arrive and remove the barriers.

“Usually they’re home and they get stressed out a lot, especially with school,” said Hernandez. “[Miguelito] has a lot of energy and he has a lot of classes as well so, we try to find a way for him to calm down and just relax.”

Hernandez said the playground is not without risk and she is still careful about how her cousins play.

“If you’re taking care of them, making sure they are keeping their mask on, making sure they’re clean, then I’m pretty sure it’s a good idea,” she said.

About 3 p.m. on Wednesday, public works crews arrived at Doyle Hollis to remove the barriers, take down the orange netting, and roll up the yellow tape. “Saving the city, one park at a time,” said one worker.

In a press release, the city’s parks and recreation department reiterated the rules for playgrounds during the pandemic:

  • Do not visit a playground with anyone not in your household. Do not arrange playdates.
  • Limit visits to 30 minutes when others are present.
  • Visitors of all ages must stay 6 feet away from non-household members.
  • Everyone 2 and older must wear masks.
  • Do not eat or drink at the playground.
  • If it’s crowded, come back later or choose a different playground.
  • Clean your hands before and after playing.
  • Adults must actively supervise children at all times. Children 2 and under must be within arm’s reach.
  • To maximize the number of children who can play, only one adult may accompany each child.

While city officials celebrated the decision, Breed also insisted that residents remain cautious in public spaces.

“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,” Breed wrote. “We have to get this surge under control now before our hospitals are overrun.”

Here are what other counties reported regarding their parks:

  • Alameda County: Playgrounds will be allowed to open, according to a county spokesperson. The county is aligned with the state’s stance on playgrounds.
  • Contra Costa County: Playgrounds are open, according to the county’s website. The county encourages those visiting playgrounds to maintain social distance, wear a face covering, wash or sanitize hands, visit during less busy hours and stay home if sick.
  • Marin County: The county adopted the state’s playground guidelines on Wednesday morning. The exact reopening timeframe for a playground will be left up to its operator, according to a county spokesperson. Schools that have resumed in-person instruction can use their playgrounds as well.
  • Santa Clara County: Playgrounds will be allowed to open, according to a county spokesperson.
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