Views: 302 Author: silvia Publish Time: 2020-08-07 Origin: Site
How to Keep Kids Safe As Playgrounds Start to Reopen
Parents and caregivers are weighing the risks of bringing children to playgrounds, where social distancing can be a challenge and hard surfaces are everywhere.
The playground padlocks are starting to come off. Now that all 50 states have begun to reopen, children in some areas are once again zipping down slides and swinging from monkey bars after months of waiting.
A handful of states, including New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, Ohio and Iowa, announced in June that playgrounds could start reopening, though the decision to open town or city-owned playgrounds was usually made locally. In New York City, for example, playgrounds officially opened on Monday, more than a week after playgrounds were permitted to open elsewhere in the state.
While this is good news for children, some parents are being a bit more cautious. The coronavirus is still spreading, and a vaccine isn’t expected until next year at the earliest. Although the overall number of deaths in the United States has been curving downward, testing in some states suggests that infections are climbing quickly. So is it really OK for kids to return to the playground?
Are playgrounds safe now?
It’s impossible to negate all risks of contracting the virus at a place like a playground, which is frequented by large numbers of people who may have different views about social distancing and hygiene.
But outdoor playgrounds do have the benefit of fresh air and more space between people than what most indoor spaces offer. There is a growing consensus that if you’re going to leave your home, it’s safer to be outdoors than in an indoor public gathering space, like a mall. When air is stagnant, respiratory droplets could linger, experts say, whereas the air flow outside can help dilute the virus.
Colorado has more specific rules about capacity. Playgrounds can be used by no more than 25 people at a time, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced last week, and high-touch areas should be cleaned and disinfected “frequently.”
Can the virus live on playground surfaces?
It’s unclear how long the coronavirus can live on plastic and metal playground structures that are touched by hundreds of tiny, and often dirty, hands.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that people can get Covid-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes, but this was “not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus lives longest on plastic and stainless steel and can survive on those surfaces for up to 72 hours. Another study, published in The Lancet, found that the Covid-19 virus remained viable up to four days on stainless steel and plastic, but the researchers said the method they used to extract the virus from these objects wasn’t analogous to casually touching a surface.
The World Health Organization cautioned that those studies were conducted under laboratory conditions where the surfaces were neither cleaned nor disinfected so they “should be interpreted with caution in the real-world environment.” And it’s also unclear whether the virus the researchers detected would have infected people who came in contact with these surfaces.
The C.D.C. recommends that playground surfaces made of plastic or metal, like grab bars and railings, be cleaned regularly, but said they do not require disinfection.
And not all administrators have the funds to clean playgrounds. In Iowa, the Department of Natural Resources posted on its website, “Equipment is not sanitized, user discretion is advised.”
Signs posted on New York City playgrounds also advised caution, announcing: “Playgrounds are not sterilized.”
Some studies suggest that sunlight could help to reduce the amount of virus lingering on surfaces, but that doesn’t appear to have been studied in playgrounds.
Should children wear a mask at the playground?
Yes, the C.D.C. recommends wearing masks in playgrounds. Face coverings are believed to reduce transmission of the virus. Even the World Health Organization, which had long refused to endorse face masks, concluded in June that governments should encourage mask wearing because of “a growing compendium of observational evidence.”
Cloth masks worn by the general public aren’t as effective as surgical masks or N95 respirators, but they still offer some barrier protection against the large respiratory droplets generated when an infected person sneezes, coughs or breathes.
But for very young children, say 2 or 3 years old, wearing a mask can sometimes be counterproductive, said Dr. Sean O’Leary, M.D., the vice chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Children’s Hospital Colorado.
What else can caregivers do to protect themselves and children at playgrounds?
If a playground is full of children, consider coming back at a different time of day — perhaps early in the morning when the crowds are thinner