Jennifer Bardsley
In Edmonds, playgrounds remain closed due to the pandemic.

Jennifer Bardsley In Edmonds, playgrounds remain closed due to the pandemic.

Mom: Pandemic safety restrictions are hitting children hard

Kids can play on playgrounds in Everett, Lynnwood, Mill Creek and Arlington — so why not Edmonds?

My kids are lucky they each have their own room and we live in a house with a back yard. But when my son was little, our family lived in a small apartment and we relied on playgrounds to help get his energy out.

It hurts my heart to see that our neighborhood playground equipment in Edmonds is still closed because of the pandemic. If adults can go to casinos, eat out in heated tents and stop by their local liquor store, why can’t children play on the swings? Other cities such as Everett, Lynnwood, Mill Creek and Arlington allow the use of playgrounds — why not Edmonds?

I am a mask-wearing, hand-sanitizer slathering, social-distancing believer. As soon as it’s my turn for the vaccine, I’ll roll up my sleeve and cheer. So I say this as a person who supports science: Some of the COVID-19 restrictions that apply to children do more harm than good.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when a video of Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen from Grand Rapids Michigan disinfecting his groceries went viral on the internet, it made sense to close playgrounds because scientists did not yet know enough about how COVID-19 spread, or how long it could live on hard surfaces. Nobody owned masks yet, and there was a national shortage of hand sanitizer. But now the situation has changed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which some would argue has issued mixed messaging for months, reported that playgrounds can be hard to keep safe when crowded and that “SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread when young children touch contaminated objects, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.” But the CDC also says that people can minimize risk at playgrounds by staying 6 feet away from other household groups, washing hands for at least 20 seconds and using hand sanitizer.

If I were a mom with active young children and no back yard, you can be darn sure I would want to utilize my local playgrounds. A quiet morning at the park with masks, Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer might be a safer alternative than letting behavioral and mental health issues build up in a small apartment. Playground closures aren’t the only restrictions that don’t make sense to me.

Why have private schools been safely operating since September, while public schools are still closed? Why is it OK for a daycare provider to help a dozen 5-year-olds log on to different Zoom calls, but it’s not OK for a kindergarten teacher to meet with half of her class outside? Why is there no option to have some virtual school classrooms meet in the evening, instead of the morning or afternoon, so that working parents can help support learning?

My kids are doing fine because we live in a house with a back yard and two parents who work from home. Aside from the occasional sibling squabble, our life is happy and stable. But not every family is as lucky.

Advocating for the mental health and well-being of children should not be a liberal versus conservative issue. All of us deserve policies rooted in common sense.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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