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Cities Urge Public To Practice Social Distancing In Outdoor Areas

City of Saratoga Springs

The cities of Saratoga Springs and Schenectady are taking action to discourage large gatherings in a time of social distancing.

Officials from Saratoga Springs and Saratoga Hospital gathered outside City Hall Tuesday to update the public on city operations, as the Spa City remains in a state of emergency during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton, who is leading the city’s response along with Mayor Meg Kelly, urged residents to observe social distancing guidelines.

“Because it’s so critical for us to slow down this rate of infection so that we’re not overwhelming our first responders and they can handle the rate of patients coming in,” said Dalton.

The officials said Saratoga Spa State Park is as busy as it’s ever been, as people looking to get some fresh air walk the park’s trails. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Parks have closed indoor spaces at outdoor recreation areas.

Dalton said, however, that social distancing must be observed. She said there have been complaints about groups at the city’s basketball courts. Dalton said the city could impose fines up to$250 on people not adhering to social distancing guidelines.

“We really want this to be an educational moment and not a punitive moment.  So if we see people who are gathering or playing sports, we will warn them. If we see them doing it again then we will likely issue a fine or a ticket. And if we notice that there are places in different neighborhoods where these activities are happening repeatedly then we will shut them down as needed,” said Dalton.

Dalton said Saratoga Springs is experiencing community spread, meaning individuals are contracting COVID-19 without knowing where or from whom they contracted it.

Last Friday, the City of Schenectady closed its playground equipment and basketball courts, though city parks will remain open. Here’s Mayor Gary McCarthy.

“We want people to go out in the parks to walk, to run, to be able to go outside and get some fresh air. But at the same time they have to be cognizant of the risk when you’re getting too close to people,” said McCarthy.

However, McCarthy said he has not decided to impose fines on those gathering in close groups.

“I’m not looking to have people cited or arrested. We want people to use common sense and be compliant. They just have to understand that this is serious. And if we all work together we’re going to get through it together with less adverse effect on the community,” said McCarthy.

Schenectady County has experienced more than 80 cases of COVID-19, Saratoga County more than 130. Both counties have reported deaths associated with the virus.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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