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Playgrounds Are Closed Due To COVID-19, So Why Are Some Of Them Packed?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Playgrounds in Chicago are still closed due to the pandemic, so why are jungle gyms hosting large groups of kids and adults night after night?

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Megan Hickey reported, those crowds have been documented on video this week at the playground outside Chopin Elementary School in Ukrainian Village.

Neighbors said they get it - kids need exercise, and it has been very hard having these parks closed.

But the videos we've seen show most of the kids and parents not wearing masks either.

"The ice cream guy has been ere all week and you're hearing the music and the kids are all in line," said Patricia Trudeau, who lives near Chopin Elementary. "I think it's all great. The kids need summer. But this is not the time."

Nevertheless, Trudeau said that scene has turned into a typical night at the school park, at 2450 W. Rice St. She has counted as many as 200 people there in the early evening.

"No one's wearing masks and no one's distancing. I don't see hand sanitzer. There's no water here to wash hands," she said, "and every night, it's escalating."

Neighbors said there used to be police tape around the playground, but that's long gone. Now, the entrance is wide open.

There is a sign saying the playground is closed. But it's way far away in the middle of the block.

We found the same scene at Walsh Park, at 1722 N. Ashland Ave. right off the 606. There's a sign saying the playground there is closed too, but no gate keeping people out – and it was a largely mask free meeting place throughout the day.

"Playgrounds, first of all, are impossible from a social distancing standpoint," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said back in June. "They really are."

So far, Dr. Arwady hasn't wavered on the city's position.

"We're not cleaning them," she said. "They're closed."

So we reached out to the Chicago Park district. A representative said they have installed signage at all playgrounds and replaced signs that have been removed.

Most parks have had their signs replaced about four times.

The Park District also lock gates at all playgrounds that are surrounded by fencing.

That was the case when we checked out the park of Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen Ave., on Thursday afternoon. But clearly, it was not an option used everywhere.

Trudeau: "I've never seen them stop and say go home."

Hickey: "Have you called the police?"

Trudeau: "I have."

Hickey: "And then they just do a lap?"

Trudeau: "And then leave."

The park outside Chopin Elementary School is under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Public Schools. At last check, all CPS playgrounds were closed to the public outside of food distribution.

We reached out again Thursday for an update on that policy, but so far, we haven't heard back.

Meanwhile, police could issue a dispersal order when called, but residents in the Ukrainian Village area said police haven't done so yet.

Hickey reached out to Chicago Police Department for an update on their playground policy. On Thursday night, she was still waiting for a response.


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