At Parks and Beaches, Some New Englanders Flaunt Social Distancing Guidelines

By gathering in large crowds, people are putting themselves and others at risk, health official say

This Friday, March 20, 2020 file photo shows a closed sign near an entrance to a playground
AP Photo/Steven Senne

City and state officials across New England are expressing frustration over people disregarding social distancing guidelines by going to crowded beaches, parks and mountains amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Sunday said that too many people were gathering in large crowds.

"People are still gathering in groups and playing sports. This is not social distancing," Walsh said. "Gathering in a parking lot, sitting in a round circle and having conversations is not social distancing."

"If we each do our part as humans and individuals to stop the spread, then we'll get through this quicker," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said at a news conference Friday, but without that, stay-at-home orders will drag on.

In response, Walsh said the city would take new measures, including temporarily putting zip ties on basketball hoops.

Walsh said the last resort would be to lock the parks down, though he hopes it does not come to that.

Rye, New Hampshire police Chief Kevin Walsh on Saturday said Ocean Boulevard was extremely congested with people walking, jogging and riding bicycles. He said people ignored the "beach closed" signs and walked onto the beaches.

Walsh said the most concerning sight was two people riding horses along Ocean Boulevard.

As New Hampshire is in a state of emergency, Walsh said people should be staying home.

Gov. Gina Raimondo said that gathering in large crowds could endanger the lives of many.

"New York is a prime example of how easy it is to catch COVID-19 and even the New York hospitals, who treat high numbers of patients on any given day, are saying that they do not have the staff or equipment to handle the volume of ill people checking into their facilities," Walsh said. 

"By staying in your own respective towns and local spots, community-based transmission can and will lessen."

In Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo was irate when she saw people not following the guidelines.

Maine's governor has a message to out-of-staters as coronavirus cases climb.

"Yesterday, when I saw photos of crowds of people in line, in Narragansett, lining up to buy food, clam cakes, chowder, takeout food – all bunched together – I almost got in my car and went down there myself and broke it," Raimonodo said, according to the Narraganset Times.

In Maine, the town of York announced all town beaches would be closed to the public indefinitely following reports of crowds gathering.

The beaches closed are Cape Neddick Beach, Short Sands Beach, Long Sands Beach, and Harbor Beach, News Center Maine reported.

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