Valley View Park in Hollister is now open for children like 6-year old Isaac C., who took advantage of a warm Monday afternoon. (Juan Reyes)

It was the first time in seven months that Isaac and his younger sister, Isabella, had been to the Valley View Park playground since it was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Hollister resident Mariah C. said it was a good feeling for her two kids to finally be able to get out and socialize with other children in a safe manner.

“It’s really beneficial for their growth to socialize, exercise and be outside,” she said. “They’re very happy, it’s good for them both physically and mentally.”

Isaac, 6 and his 2-year old sister, Isabella, since March have been limited to some outdoor activities such as walking, going to the beach and a lot of art projects. But now San Benito County officials have allowed playgrounds and outdoor recreational facilities to reopen as the California Department of Public Health on Sept. 29 released an updated Covid-19 guidance.

The guidance applies to outdoor playgrounds located in parks, campgrounds and other publicly accessible locations.

The state requires visitors to keep visits to a limit of 30 minutes per day when others are present and no eating or drinking is allowed on the playground. Visitors are required to wash or sanitize their hands before and after using the playground. 

Everyone age 2 and older must wear face masks over the mouth and nose, which Isaac and Isabella were doing. Children must be supervised at all times to ensure face mask use.

Caregivers must monitor to keep adults and kids from different households at least six feet apart. The state also prohibits use of the playground when different households are unable to maintain a physical distance of six feet or when the capacity limit has been reached.

The state recommends that visitors should consider going on different times or days to avoid wait times and potential crowds. Elderly and persons with underlying medical conditions should avoid the playground when others are present.

State officials said, “Covid-19 continues to pose a severe risk to communities and requires all people in California to follow necessary precautions and to adapt the way they live and function in light of this ongoing risk.”

Mariah said all the Covid-19 guidelines are confusing and some don’t make sense. She pointed out how the picnic tables were still blocked off but the playgrounds were open. 

“Either do it one way or just don’t do it all,” she said. “You have to wear a mask walking in a restaurant but once you’re sitting down it can come off. It is very confusing but I understand, I agree with some stuff.”

Mariah drove by Valley View, also known as “Whale Park”, a couple of times to see how packed it would be and it turned out the playground wasn’t too busy for Isabella and Isaac. And prior to them sprinting away toward the swing set and jungle gym, she reminded them once more not to touch their faces and stay at a safe distance.   

“I’m just grateful that my kids are able to come out here and enjoy life again,” she said. “I’m very appreciative of the people who are coming out and sanitizing the playground, making it safe for them.”

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