How Risky Is A School Playground?

In our series "What's the Risk?" experts weigh in on what risks different scenarios pose for transmitting COVID-19.
Posted at 12:23 PM, Aug 17, 2020

As the school year starts, you might be wondering about the risks of getting sick with COVID-19.  

We asked the experts, what's the risk of a school playground?

Their take: The risk of contracting COVID-19 from a playground is medium risk.

"The risk is going to increase that the more people you have in an environment that close together and if people aren't following the masking and the sanitizing, but you're outside, so that would decrease a little bit," Neysa Ernst, Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit nurse manager, said.

"It's possible to to try to physically distance, although in general it's just hard to do that when children are playing. The biggest concern would be whether or not the playground materials are being cleaned and how," Dr. Jasmine Marcelin, infectious diseases specialist at Nebraska Medicine, said. 

"This virus does, while it may survive on a surface and it doesn't survive for very long, few hours, maybe a day. But the fact is that it doesn't seem to transmit a lot from objects to people," Cleveland Clinic pediatric infectious diseases specialist Dr. Frank Esper said.

"Playgrounds are so high-touch. The slides, the monkey bars, all of those spaces are very high-touch. And they don't regularly, they're not regularly cleaned. And so I would think that even in a school setting where you do have custodial and housekeeping staff that have some availability to clean them, the need to clean those between every lunch or recess session would be really high," Annette Anderson, deputy director for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, told Newsy.

For more answers on what is low, medium, or high risk, visit