The state order keeping people in their homes most of the time will be enforced, including in city parks, Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea reiterated Sunday afternoon.
People are allowed to do things like take a walk, go jogging or exercise but must avoid close contact with others and go home when they’re done with what they’re doing. They also may shop for essentials such as food, medicine and gasoline.
The pause in regular activity ordered by Gov. Cuomo is all about social distancing, de Blasio noted: people keeping farther than usual from each other in order to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. The general rule of thumb is 6 feet.
“It is all about protecting ourselves and our families and each other,” de Blasio said Sunday at a call-in press conference, according to a transcript released by his office. “When we say you can go out for some exercise, we are not saying you can linger. We’re not saying you can make a day of it. We’re saying, go out, get a minimum amount of exercise, get what you need, and then get back in the doors. Same with grocery shopping. Go get what you need. Get back inside. You got to go to the pharmacy, get what you need, get back inside. We will be enforcing this, but with an understanding for the challenges that people are facing for how new this is.”
He continued, “We’re not going to be draconian. We’re going to give people a chance to get used to this, but I guarantee you we will enforce this new reality. And I think the vast majority of New Yorkers will understand quickly and will act accordingly.”
Cuomo, whose stay-at-home order went into effect Sunday at 8 p.m., had previously expressed frustration with how many people he saw gathering in parks as he traveled around the city.
De Blasio and Shea said they mostly had seen people in compliance with the order. The mayor, when asked about the discrepancy, explained that “people can be at different places at different times … and see different things.”
“We’re asking people to remain six feet apart because that’s the general distance that a good, healthy, strong cough or sneeze has to get from one person to the other,” noted Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city health commissioner.
Shea said cops will be in the parks to ensure the rules are followed.
“So you’ll expect to see police officers throughout the five boroughs, whether it’s on a bicycle, probably on some scooters and some marked police cars, driving slowly through the parks and just broadcasting and speaking to people about that message,” Shea said. “Enjoy, how you doing, get your exercise, and then the politely, get out of here. And I say that tongue in cheek.”
The commissioner reiterated that the problem arises when people who don’t live together get too close.
“A husband and wife holding hands in the park, taking a walk with their dog. That’s not really what we’re worried about, they’re together in the apartment anyway, but it’s the large groups,” he said.
Similarly, the mayor said a mother and her child can go to a playground and be close, but they should not mix with other families there.
“We cannot have overcrowding on a playground,” de Blasio said. “If there are some people already on the playground and it’s starting to get to you can’t keep six feet away from people who are not part of your family, don’t go on the playground. If our police, our parks enforcement officers or other enforcement agency see a playground that’s starting to fill up, they’re going to clear it out.
“If you go the playground, you need to keep your children away from children who are not part of your family. That’s your responsibility. We will always do our best with city enforcement, but we can’t be everywhere, obviously, you have to take responsibility. If you don’t feel you can do it, don’t go to the playground.”
He added that the city will not be disinfecting playgrounds, something he said some parents had asked for.
And he said he is hesitant to close some streets to traffic — an idea Cuomo had floated to give people more space to walk around — because that could give people more places to congregate: “If we think it’s smart to open up some alternatives, we’re only going to do that when we have a clear plan and we have clear enforcement in place. The last thing I want to do is create new places for people to congregate with no enforcement. That would be absolutely contradictory to the State order.”
But Cuomo said on Wednesday that the city will start shutting down some streets in a pilot program since fewer cars are on the roads.