Parks and playgrounds are closing indefinitely in Everett as the city reacts to an alarming rise in coronavirus cases.
The closures, which start Thursday, come amid what Mayor Carlo DeMaria calls a "drastic increase" of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city. Ten new patients were diagnosed with the virus Wednesday including three in the Intensive Care unit at CHA Everett Hospital.
Organized sports with city-approved coronavirus safety plans can continue to play on fields and people who live in the same household are allowed to the park together for exercise, according to the mayor.
"People frequently ask what the numbers in our hospital are like -- these are the highest numbers we have seen in quite some time," DeMaria wrote on Facebook Wednesday.
"As Mayor, balancing the need for outdoor activity and the safety of our community has been challenging to say the least. I have held off on this as long as I can," DeMaria said. "With CHA Everett numbers and positive cases increasing by the day, it leaves the city with few options."
State data shows there are 2,149 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city of Everett, with an average daily incidence rate of 18 per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.
This step is the first of many to come, according to DeMaria, as the city tries to stop the spread. A decision to reopen the parks will be made based on daily coronavirus data.
"Taking a few steps backwards for the better of our community will truly benefit everyone in the future," DeMaria said. "We will continue to reassess the closure as we continue to monitor the numbers."
The city is also offering free coronavirus testing at new locations starting Saturday.