San Diego Pushing To Keep Playgrounds Open As Stay-Home Order Details Clarified
Monday, December 7, 2020
Photo by Alexander Nguyen
New regional stay-home orders across Southern California designed to protect dwindling ICU capacity are shuttering businesses, limiting retail capacity and banning outdoor dining. Beaches and parks can remain open, but playgrounds cannot, and local officials are pushing to keep them accessible.
Supervisor Jim Desmond said he would take action at the Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting to halt enforcement against the recreation spaces for children.
“I plan on making a motion that our county officials and law enforcement not enforce the closures of playgrounds in San Diego County,” Desmond said in a Monday interview with KPBS. “Our children need to be outside. They can't all go to a ski resort, which the governor has allowed to stay open.”
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he too supports keeping playgrounds open, and State Assemblyman and city of San Diego Mayor-elect Todd Gloria called on the governor to do so in a letter he shared on social media. Outgoing San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer was also against the move.
“No science that supports closing down outdoor playgrounds to kids,” Faulconer posted on Twitter Friday.
Faulconer was also critical of barring restaurants from serving patrons outdoors. Eateries are only permitted to offer take-out and delivery under the orders set to last at least three weeks.
Desmond, a vocal opponent of past shutdown orders and their impact on businesses, said some restrictions are warranted now based on rising hospitalizations, but businesses that have invested in upgrades and proven they can operate safely, should be able to continue doing so. However, he said he won’t be pushing a similar motion to curb enforcement of those closures.
“I've tried many different ways and quite frankly, now the fact that we are up against hospital capacities, I hate to see it happen, particularly if the restaurants are doing all the right things, but tomorrow I'm going to be focusing on the playgrounds and children,” Desmond said.
Fletcher said the county is still dissecting what’s impacted beyond the clearly defined sectors that are ordered to close or reduce operations, but the latest measures are designed to prevent the worst-case scenario.
“If you overwhelm your health care system, you're put into a number of devastatingly bad choices around crisis care. Who gets a bed? You know, someone that's in a car accident, not having a place to go,” he told KPBS Midday Edition Monday.
He said the spike in hospitalizations presents new challenges beyond the availability of physical beds.
“I speak to multiple hospital systems daily who are very concerned about the availability of ICU nurses. You have burnout, you have fatigue. You have a lot of traveling nurses that are in other parts of the country and then you have a lot of health care workers who are getting infected,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said the county is updating how it counts available ICU beds by tracking only those that can also be staffed. That’s how the state is assessing regional ICU availability, but KPBS reported San Diego County has previously not included available clinicians in the equation.
A San Diego County spokesperson could not immediately confirm the change.
The new regional restrictions began at 11:59 p.m. Sunday and will last at least 21 days. The state’s health secretary said officials will then review ICU projections at that time to determine if the order should be lifted. Counties would then go back to a re-opening phase in the state’s four-stage system based on their own jurisdiction’s case and positivity rates.
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