San Jose officials are proactively trying to tamp down on the number of people who flock to parks in the city over the upcoming holiday weekend.
Nine regional parks and the parking lots at 19 city parks will be closed to the public this Saturday and Sunday, which is Easter Sunday, the city announced Thursday. Gatherings and egg hunts are also prohibited at the parks that remain open.
The closures come as the Bay Area remains sheltered in place due to the fast-spreading coronavirus, which can cause a sometimes deadly respiratory illness called COVID-19. As of Thursday, 1,442 people in the county had tested positive for the virus and 47 had died.
San Jose officials last month already closed two of the city’s most popular parks, Alum Rock Park on the city’s east side and the staircase and trail on Communications Hill. Dog parks and playgrounds citywide remain closed under a revised shelter-in-place order.
“The closure is to protect the health and safety of the public,” city officials said at the time, noting that it was due “to overcrowding and is necessary to keep people safe and reduce stress on emergency services and responders police, and park rangers.”
This week also brought good news to the South Bay that the virus is spreading slower than in past weeks, and projected to remain well below the region’s worst case scenario due to the wide-reaching order to stay at home. In other words, the South Bay is “bending the curve,” on infections — a trend state officials are also reporting.
But health officials across the board are stressing that it’s not yet time to gather for celebrations.
In fact, San Jose officials have warned multiple times in recent weeks that parks could close indefinitely if visitors don’t adhere to the 6-foot distancing rule for people who do not live in the same household.
That sentiment was echoed Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who also warned residents to avoid parks where it’s too crowded to keep a healthy distance from other people. So far, 18,309 people had been infected with the novel coronavirus statewide and 492 have died as of Thursday.
“I know everybody is tempted with Easter Sunday and the weather starting to improve,” Newsom said Thursday. “I just want to remind folks if you do (visit a park), you must practice safe physical distancing and if you are on a single trail head going up and folks are coming down, you can’t do that.”
Last month, the state started closing some parks, beaches and parking lots after a record number of Californians crowded into those public spaces the weekend after the statewide stay at home order went into effect.
Now the state has implemented “soft closures,” meaning parking and other high-use indoor amenities are closed, but also “hard closures” meaning the park is closed in its entirety.
Currently, the state has closed the parking lots at all 280 state parks. All state campgrounds are also shuttered. The state has released a list of parks that are fully closed across California.
“While the curve is bending in the state of California, it is also lengthening,” Newsom said. “At any moment, if we pull back, we see that curve go back up.”
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