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California Department of Public Health releases new guidelines for outdoor playgrounds

Some playgrounds are open, but there are new requirements to consider, like mandatory masks and no mixing with other families or groups.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Nota: Hay nuevas reglas para los parques durante la pandemia y algunos en su área pueden estar abiertos. Para obtener información en español, haga clic aquí. 

Though the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a high concern for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the department is loosening restrictions surrounding some community playgrounds. 

In a press release, the department shared new guidelines for use of outdoor playgrounds and recreational facilities that should "support a safe environment for children and families." 

In March, all parks and playgrounds in Sacramento County closed due to the pandemic -- a decision that followed school closures.

For 6-year-old twins Imogen and Irving Gray of Sacramento, a lock on a playground gate did stop them from enjoying the swings. 

"We are pretty excited about that," said the twins' dad, Jeremy Gray.

Gray said kids deserve some playtime after all they've been through this year.

“It’s been hard between the smoke for such a long period of time where we weren’t able to get outside as much as we wanted to, and then the playground is closed, and the schools being closed as well," said Gray.

In an interview with ABC10 last March, Sacramento County Public Health Director Dr. Peter Beilenson said the school closures would be ineffective at preventing spread if those same children were all able to still gather with friends and community parks. 

The guidelines below, released on Sept. 29, 2020, apply only to outdoor playgrounds at parks, campgrounds, and other publicly accessible locations. The department said in its release these guidelines do not apply to indoor playgrounds or family entertainment centers, which remain closed.

Credit: ThinkStock
Child playing on outdoor playground in rain. Kids play on school or kindergarten yard. Active kid on colorful swing. Healthy summer activity for children in rainy weather. Little boy swinging.

If you're visiting a park, have fun with your family! But be aware of the following park requirements for all visitors:

  1. Face coverings over the mouth and nose are required for over the age of two and all children must be accompanied by an adult to make sure they're following those requirements. 
  2. If the playground is busy and you can't maintain six feet of distance from other families or children, check back another time. 
  3. No eating or drinking will be allowed in the playground. This guideline is in place to further encourage that face coverings be worn at all times.
  4. Wash or sanitize your hands before and after using the playground.
  5. Community members who are elderly or who have underlying medical conditions should avoid the playground when others are present.
  6. Limit your visits to 30 minutes per day, so other people can enjoy the parks. 
  7. Follow the rules listed at the park for the maximum numbers of children allowed at one time. 

In addition to the requirements above, the department of health said all children being supervised by the same adult must stay in one place on the playground - so the adult can be sure they're following the mask requirements. The department has also made it clear to park operators that if hand sanitizing stations are made available, ingredients must be checked. All sanitizers will contain either 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol, "never...hand sanitizers with methanol due to its high toxicity to both children and adults," the department said. 

Park operators have also been directed to clearly mark the rules so parents and children understand what is allowed at each playground and how they must now use the facilities. 

"Child care programs, schools, out-of-school time programs and other programs for children and youth where children must remain in cohorts may not use playgrounds during times when they are open to the public," the department said. 

However, those organizations can work with the playground operator or park operator to reserve a time to use the playground exclusively for that group of children. 

WATCH ALSO: Quarry Park Adventures is hosting a temporary drive-in movie theater through the month of October.