New York City to enforce social distancing at parks, playgrounds

Playground and parks monitors will keep people from congregating

New York /
Mar.March 24, 2020 03:45 PM
Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered the message this week ahead of a formal plan to combat social gathering in the city. (Credit: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images and Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered the message this week ahead of a formal plan to combat social gathering in the city. (Credit: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images and Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Parents taking their children to the playground during the pandemic have been put on notice: keep your children away from others or recreation spaces will be closed.

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered the message this week ahead of a formal plan to combat social gathering in the city. Authorities hope the crackdown will slow the spread of the virus.

“You can’t play team sports at this point — there’s no more events, there’s no more big barbecues,” de Blasio said. “If you go to the playground, you need to keep your children away from children that are not part of your family.”

Health officials advise people to stay six feet from others to avoid catching the virus from a powerful sneeze or cough. But people living together can venture out together as well, the mayor has said.

“[If] enforcement agents see a playground that’s starting to fill up, they’re going to clear it out,” he said, adding that if people act responsibly, the playgrounds would stay open.

The state Department of Health’s website, referring to the governor’s recent executive order, says: “All non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason are temporarily banned.”

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, de Blasio announced he would close two streets in each borough to traffic to allow pedestrians more space to spread out. He described it as a pilot program. “If you open up a bunch of streets and you cannot enforce because you’re spreading out our resources too much into places we haven’t normally had to enforce,” he said, “you’re going to have a problem of gatherings starting to happen and people not observing social distancing because there’s no enforcement mechanism.”

As of Tuesday morning, New York had 25,665 confirmed cases of the virus, far more than any other state. California had 2,800 cases, Washington 2,200, Florida 1,200 and Massachusetts 800. Some of the discrepancy stems from more testing being done in New York, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Experts have attributed the surge in part to New York City’s density — 28,000 residents per square mile, well above second most–packed San Francisco’s 17,000, according to The New York Times.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Getty Images)

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Getty Images)

Cuomo said Tuesday that the rate of increase in New York was faster than authorities had predicted and was on pace to soon overwhelm hospitals and exhaust medical supplies in the state.

The state is now moving to expand hospital capacity and, with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, build temporary sites in anticipation of the virus’ expected peak in two to three weeks.

Last week, Cuomo ordered workers at all non-essential businesses to stay home from work. Public libraries, museums, movie theaters, malls, hair salons and gyms have since been shut down.

But the warnings didn’t stop some New Yorkers from gathering in public parks, at farmers’ markets and on basketball courts over the weekend, prompting Cuomo to decry the actions as “arrogant” and “insensitive.”

In Los Angeles, City Councilman David Ryu has called for Runyon Canyon and Lake Hollywood Park to be shut down on weekends because the number of people at the sites make “safe physical distancing impossible.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he would close parking lots at dozens of beaches and state parks after people flocked to the areas during the first weekend of the state’s stay-at-home order.

Write to Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at [email protected]


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