Popular sites such as Crissy Field drew large numbers of people over the weekend. (Examiner file photo)

Breed says parks could close if residents don’t improve social distancing

Mayor warns: ‘You’re putting lives at stake’

Parks and other recreational areas may close unless social distancing is better followed, Mayor London Breed warned on Monday.

Breed commended San Franciscans for staying at home and away from others when out for a walk during the past week of the shelter-in-place. But she expressed frustration with the sight of people gathering for picnics in parks and at beaches the past weekend — and warned that if the pattern continues, the city’s parks must close.

“We will have no choice but to close our parks system, to work on other mitigating suggestions that we need to do in order to ensure people don’t use these spaces,” Breed said. “It’s really the last thing I want to do. You’re putting lives at stake, you’re putting public health in jeopardy.”

Health officials are preparing for a surge in San Francisco cases, which have ballooned to 131 in less than a month, and informed the unprecedented lockdown. Social distancing is required when people are allowed to go outside for essential activities, like getting food and medicine or reporting for an essential job.

But popular areas like the Embarcadero and Marina Green have received national attention for the remaining crowds. Not abiding by the shelter-in-place order, Colfax warned, could mean overwhelming an already-strained health care system. Breed pointed to Italy, where more than 6,000 people have died from coronavirus and hospitals lack room for all cases.

“What happens if it’s your grandma, what happens if it’s your uncle, what happens if we don’t have a bed for them to be in because they got sick?” Breed said. “We don’t want to get to that point. I want to plead to the people of our city to comply.”

That means staying six feet away from others not in your household, no gathering to meet up with friends or having visitors, no shaking hands or hugging, washing hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds each time, and other requirements. People with chronic illnesses, who are sick or 60 years or older should not go outside at all.

City playgrounds are already closed while the shelter-in-place order is in place. Marin County closed its parks and beaches on Sunday due to summer-level crowding while Gov. Gavin Newsom closed parking lots at California’s state parks on Monday.

Breed added that the city would move in a “more aggressive direction” to address social distancing, but the San Francisco Police Department is so far not issuing misdemeanor tickets to crack down. By and large, police Chief Bill Scott said, the city has been complying.

“We have had some challenges but overall, San Franciscans are heeding the public health order,” Scott said. “Voluntary compliance is our best way to sustain this effort. If all else fails, enforcement is still an option.”

The warning that parks could close will come as a disappointment to those who called for The City to close streets to cars, allowing pedestrians more room to fan out. John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, Divisadero Street and other roads in dense areas were requested over the weekend.

Colfax said doing so “doesn’t make sense” and will “encourage folks to congregate in that area.”

“This is not a time to engage in full-borne recreational activities,” Colfax said. “I am sad to say that the worst is yet to come. This is our time to stay apart while we stand together as San Franciscans.”

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