Megan Guza And Bob Bauder - Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Pittsburgh officials have not ruled out closing city parks if residents fail to heed social distancing guidelines as they did last weekend.
The city has already closed all playgrounds effective Friday, and basketball courts and the Mt. Washington overlooks have been closed since early this week.
Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said residents have, for the most part, done well at keeping their distance from one another.
“But last weekend was an exception within our city parks and public places,” Hissrich said Friday at an outdoor news conference on the North Shore. “They were packed, and there was no social distancing.”
He said now is a crucial time in the pandemic, and “we have to remain vigilant.”
“Sacrifices have to be made and will hopefully pay off in the long term by flattening the curve and saving lives,” he said.
Hissrich said police will be patrolling the parks in addition to the park rangers, reminding residents to keep their distance from one another and avoid congregating all in one place. The goal is not to have to cite anyone, as doing so would eliminate a safe distance between officers and the public. But it’s not out of the question, he said.
“Depending on what happens this weekend, we may have to take further action the same time next week,” he said. “There might be people cited in the following weeks or the parks might have to close.”
Mayor Bill Peduto said this weekend cannot be a repeat.
“We slipped last weekend,” he said. “We allowed ourselves to take a step backward. We allowed ourselves to be tempted by beautiful weather, to gather outdoors in large numbers.”
Social distancing, he said, “is the only way we can win this war.”
“I like being with my friends. I like being with my family. I do not like being locked up in my house,” Peduto said. “But if we look at it through the responsibility that each of us have as Pittsburghers, then every decision we make should be made upon the basis of how we minimize the public health impact to the city we love.”
Parks Usage Update: Due to COVID19 & measures for social distancing, all playgrounds, courts & fields are now CLOSED. Parks remain open for enjoyment of greenspace & trails. Enjoy the fresh air: stay a minimum of 6 ft. from others; wash hands before & after; stay safe & be well! pic.twitter.com/2x6SX8Q3HC
— Citiparks (@Citiparks) April 3, 2020
Pittsburgh on Monday announced it was closing all basketball courts, soccer fields and overlooks because people were gathering at the sites in groups and not following 6-foot social distancing requirements.
Park usage across the state has increased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic with government stay-at-home orders and with more residents idled or working from home.