Reopen the Playgrounds!

Nearly six months have passed since San Diego cordoned off Trolley Park and others like it around the city. As summer started, the public spaces reopened but the playgrounds remain closed—a restriction that defies common sense and current science regarding SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19.

“The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children”, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults…as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths”. Seasonally, the flu kills more kids—and, unlike that virus, children ages 0-9 are extremely unlikely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 or to transmit it to adults. In San Diego County from Feb. 14, 2020 to yesterday, among that age bracket, 1,514 tested positive—or 3.3 percent of the 45,425 confirmed cases.

Currently, San Diego schools are closed, and students of all ages are remote learning with parents acting as teaching assistants. My question: If preschoolers through fourth-graders are low-risk for catching the Novel Coronavirus, why not let them attend classes in person? If not, why prohibit playtime that can improve their mental and physical health?

According to the CDC:

When schools are closed, children lose access to important opportunities for physical activity. Many children may not be sufficiently physically active outside of the context of in-school physical education (PE) and other school-based activities. Beyond PE, with schools closed, children may not have sufficient opportunities to participate in organized and safe physical activity. They also lose access to other school-based physical activities, including recess, classroom engagements, and after school programs. The loss of opportunities for physical activity from school closures, especially when coupled with potentially diminished nutrition, can be particularly harmful to children.

I see no good reason for closing the playgrounds. As I asserted on April 8, 2020: “Let the Kids Play“. Perhaps that asks too much. Yesterday, the County barely avoided an even stricter shutdown. The infection rate is 6.9 daily new cases per 100,000. Another 0.1 percent, and the state would have closed barber shops, churches, gyms, movie theaters, and nail salons; prohibited indoor dining; and reduced retail stores to 25-percent of permitted occupancy, among other restrictions. Ironic for the topic of this post: An outbreak among older students, those attending San Diego State University, skews the numbers. County-wide, the new infection and death rate is relatively low compared to most other California regions.

The spirit of rebellion increases. Some small businesses prepared to defy new restrictions, which still could come when new data is tabulated in two weeks, and the County considered suing the state. How about someone rebel and cut the yellow tape around the playgrounds? Parents? Can you rise up?

I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image (warning 32MB file) on September 21. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 100, 1/160 sec, 28mm; 10:33 a.m. PDT. The photo is composed as shot, of the Trolley Barn Park playground in University Heights.