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COVID Shutdown: SF Supe Asks Governor To Open Playgrounds Citing Overcrowding, Impact On Kids

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- The Crocker Amazon playground was one of the busiest and most visited in the Excelsior neighborhood before San Francisco's latest shutdown. Now, the swings are tied up with caution tape.

Playgrounds across the city are virtually deserted - off-limits under the new stay-at-home order. But in District 11, which includes the Outer Mission, Ingleside, and Excelsior neighborhoods, that decision comes with especially damaging consequences, according to Supervisor Ahsha Safai.

"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," said Safai.

That prompted Safai to send a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health, asking him to reconsider the closure of playgrounds under his regional stay-at-home order. District 11 also has the largest population of children attending the San Francisco Unified School District.

"School is tough, but I really like coming out to parks to relax and stuff, because it's like nice to come outside and get fresh air when you're like cooped up all day," said Coleman Perito of San Francisco.

UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi told KPIX 5 there is no science that indicates a playground is more dangerous than other outdoor activities that are allowed, like hiking or going to the beach, with masking and distancing. Outdoor activities are also safer than indoor ones.

"There's a lot of depression, there's a lot of sadness, there's a lot of children that just miss being around their friends, their family, being back in the school classroom with their teachers," said Safai. "It's been proven that playgrounds are a way to help with the social and emotional wellness of children."

Safai says Supervisor Matt Haney has also joined him in his efforts to call on the governor.

"We should encourage people, to spend time outdoors and if they need to have social interaction, do it outdoors, at a distance, while masked, safely," said Andrew Perito, a San Francisco parent. "I haven't seen any data that suggests that can't be done safely."

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