San Jose parks, light rail routes close as agencies respond to fast-spreading coronavirus
A VTA service worker cleans a light rail car with disenfectant in Downtown Mountain View during the morning commute Wednesday March 11, 2020. Photo by Adam F. Hutton.

Two of San Jose’s city parks will be temporarily closed starting Friday as local officials try to thin the record crowds parks saw last weekend following a statewide “stay at home” order.

Alum Rock Park on the city’s east side and the staircase and trail on Communications Hill will close, according to a news release Thursday night.

“The closure is to protect the health and safety of the public,” city officials said. The closure “is due to overcrowding and is necessary to keep people safe and reduce stress on emergency services and responders police, and park rangers.”

Those city park closures come a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a mandatory stay at home order that instructs residents to stay inside except for specific, essential tasks and exercise. When outside, the state has asked that residents stay at least 6 feet from anyone they don’t live with to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

But state parks, and evidently some local parks, saw a record high number of Californians crowding beaches and parks last weekend.

In response, Newsom scolded Californians this week for not adhering to the health order, and said the state would close parking lots at state parks to discourage crowding. He also warned of future “hard closures” of parks.

San Jose leaders on Thursday said residents should maintain a 6-foot distance from people not in their household while in public spaces — a measure that can help the city avoid closing more parks.

Meanwhile, public transportation is also seeing cuts due to COVID-19.

A day after announcing significantly reduced routes and frequencies, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) shut down light rail service until further notice starting at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, after an operator trainee tested positive for coronavirus.

Light rail ridership for VTA has declined by 82% since the Bay Area started sheltering in place, an order that came from local health officials days before Newsom’s statewide order. Since then, the agency has blocked off drivers and operators from riders, asking transit-takers to board near the back of buses and cars and foregoing fare box payment altogether.

VTA will now focus operational resources for bus service as their light rail vehicles and the operating division goes through a cleaning, the agency said.

Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.

Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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