Interim Best Practices for Reopening Parks and Playgrounds in Response to COVID-19

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Please use these best practices to guide your reopening. (Current as of June 11, 2020)

Personal Hygiene 

  • Encourage all staff and patrons to wash their hands often. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Handwashing and/or hand sanitizer stations should be made available in buildings and outdoor locations throughout the park property.
  • The use of equipment such as phones, headphones, microphones, and other personal equipment should not be shared, and should be sanitized before and after each use.

Education and Symptom Monitoring

  • Educate staff and patrons about when to stay home (for example, if they have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days) and when they can safely end their home isolation.
  • Everyone should monitor their health status and stay home when feeling symptoms of any illness.  
  • Consider conducting daily health checks (for example, temperature screening or symptom checking) of staff. Ensure safe and respectful implementation that is aligned with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.
  • Provide staff with up-to-date information about COVID-19 in the local area and park policies on a regular basis.
  • Communicate to park staff the importance of practicing healthy hygiene habits, such as washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Recommend and reinforce use of cloth face coverings among staff. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on:
    • Children younger than 2 years old; anyone who has trouble breathing; or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.

Maintaining a Healthy Environment

  • Outdoor areas generally require normal routine cleaning and do not require disinfection. Spraying disinfectant on sidewalks and in parks is not an efficient use of disinfectant supplies and has not been proven to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the public. You should continue existing cleaning and hygiene practices for outdoor areas.
  • The targeted use of disinfectants can be done effectively, efficiently, and safely on outdoor hard surfaces and objects frequently touched by multiple people (e.g., handrails, benches, swing sets); make sure disinfectant has thoroughly dried before allowing children to play.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of disinfectants, including storing products securely away from children.
  • Select disinfectants approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are best for your venue.
  • For more information on methods & products:
  • Change layouts to ensure in seating areas, individuals can remain at least 6 feet apart from those they don’t live with.
  • Provide physical cues or guides and visual cues and signs to ensure that staff and patrons stay at least 6 feet apart from those they don’t live with.
  • Stagger use of communal spaces if possible, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects each time they are used.
  • Discouraging people from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect.

Restrooms

  • If possible, restrooms should be open if a park is open for public visitation. Ensure they have functional toilets, clean and disinfected surfaces, and handwashing supplies. If restrooms will be closed, notify visitors ahead of time, so they can prepare appropriately. Ensure that open restrooms are:
    • Operating with functional toilets.
    • Cleaned and disinfected regularly, particularly high-touch surfaces such as faucets, toilets, doorknobs, and light switches.
    • Clean, and disinfect restrooms daily or more often if possible using EPA-registered disinfectants that are effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Following the Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting to develop, implement, and maintain a plan to perform regular cleanings to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Regularly stocked with supplies for handwashing, including soap and paper towels for drying hands or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and no touch trash cans.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

Note: The use of N-95 and surgical masks should be reserved for healthcare providers and other sectors when appropriate.  

Social Distancing 

In order to decrease the chance of COVID-19 spread, park administrators should consider:

  • Monitoring areas where people are likely to gather and consider temporary closure to support social distancing practices. These areas might include sports fields, playgrounds, skate parks, basketball courts, tennis courts, and picnic areas. In the event of facility closures, park administrators may place physical barriers in these areas and post signs communicating that the area is closed.
  • Posting signs that discourage groups from gathering in larger numbers than are currently recommended or allowed.
  • If necessary, consider providing physical guides to ensure that people remain at least 6 feet apart while in the park. For example, markings on the ground, colored tape, or signs (in appropriate languages) to indicate safe distances.
  • Consider ways to maintain social distancing as it relates to the circumstance.

Everyone should maintain 6-feet distance from others in public spaces. If unable to do so, use a face covering to lower exposure to respiratory droplets (see above). 

Messaging

  • Display posters and signs throughout the park to frequently remind visitors to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These messages should include information about staying home when sick, what to do if, personal hygiene, social distancing, and face coverings (see above for more information).

Interactions between People

  • Reduce the number of people to prevent crowding.
  • Use messaging to promote preventive practices (hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, staying home if ill).
  • Consider programming to reduce high risk activities (i.e. those that require physical contact between participants).
  • If serving food, consider packaged refreshments. Any event that provides food should consult with the Environmental Health Department (315-366-2361).
  • Avoiding group events, gatherings, or meetings if social distancing of at least 6 feet between people who don’t live together cannot be maintained. Exceptions to the social distancing guidance include:
    • Anyone rescuing a distressed patron, providing first aid, or performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, with or without an automated external defibrillator.
  • If planned events must be conducted, staggering drop-off and pick-up times, as much as possible, to maintain distance of at least 6 feet between people who don’t live together.
  • Ask parents to consider if their children are capable of staying at least 6 feet apart from people they don’t live with before taking them to a park.

Contact Tracing

In the event that there is a local outbreak of COVID-19, facilities should be prepared to provide a list of individuals that have entered the location or attended an event. If privacy can be maintained, consider maintaining a guest logs of parks and playgrounds (name, phone number).

Planning Ahead

Using the guiding principles above, facilities should address each topic area during plan development.  

  • Be prepared to cancel or postpone large events and gatherings.
  • Monitor and adhere to guidelines issued at the national, state, and local levels related to limiting the size of gatherings.
  • Continually assess current conditions regarding the spread of COVID-19 and engage with federal, state, and/or local public health officials when deciding whether to postpone, cancel, or reduce the number of attendees (if possible) for gatherings.
  • What measures will you implement to ensure the health and safety of people? What is your plan to enforce these measures? Measures should include:
    • Personal Hygiene & Monitoring of Symptoms
    • Disinfection Practices
    • Personal Protective Equipment
    • Physical Distance
    • Interaction between People
    • Maintain Regulatory Awareness. Be aware of local or state regulatory agency policies on gathering requirements or recommendations to determine if events, such as team practices or parties can be held.

Additional Considerations by reopening phase

Phase 3

Public playgrounds may be used by supervised child care and summer programs

  • Signage: All restrictions and recommendations posted at a minimum at all access points or every 30 ft around playground.
  • Hygiene: Reinforce frequent and proper handwashing and use of hand sanitizer before and after use or following sneezing and coughing. Reminders to discourage touching of face and covering mouth for sneezes or coughs.
  • Programming: No formal programming.
  • Responsibilities: Users should supply own hand sanitizer and obey all posted signage.

Phase 4

Open with physical distancing.

  • Signage, hygiene, programming, and responsibilities remain the same as Phase 3.

Post-Phase 4

No restrictions

Additional Resources 

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html