A sunny Sunday in San Francisco would typically have drawn 10,000 or so people to the outdoor party of Dolores Park. But on April 19, one of the warmest days so far this spring, the scene was relatively mellow but nonetheless dotted with small gatherings and sunbathers.
KRON4 reported on Sunday evening that SFPD officers were in the park using loudspeakers to remind everyone they needed to have six feet of space between them — though a tweet about the story initially, mistakenly reported that sun-baskers were being "kicked out" of Dolores Park.
Another photo taken on Saturday, seen below, show's people sitting relatively close together on gay beach/fruit shelf area of the park. The tweet @-tagged Mayor London Breed, which perhaps inspired the greater police presence on Sunday.
Anecdotally, this has been the state of things in the park for several weeks — not exactly crowded in the usual way, but maybe not as sparse as it should be given all we know about the way this virus spreads.
Still, as summer approaches, it's going to be near impossible to keep the parks empty, so figuring out the happy medium, if there is one, will be the next challenge.
The SFPD tells SFGate that "at no time" did officers kick anyone out of the park on Sunday. Spokesperson for the department Officer Adam Lobsinger says that they were simply "reminding people to spread out and practice social distancing per the Shelter in Place (SIP) public health order." He adds, "We understand that people want to enjoy the parks and be outside, but we need to remind people that the SIP is still in effect and that we need to wear masks while we are outside doing the essential tasks to reduce the spread of COVID-19."
Another person on Twitter suggested that park rangers had already come through and told families it was OK for them to picnic in the park. But then the SFPD appeared and stood over "the one black family" in the park as they announced their "reminder."
Just 5 minutes after the park rangers said it was OK for families to picnic in Dolores Park, SFPD drove into the park and threatened to arrest everyone picnicking. I get the confusion, but did you really need to drive up to and stand over the one black family to make your point? pic.twitter.com/BO6PLrrQFD— Robert (Munro) Monarch (@WWRob) April 19, 2020
Rec and Parks spokesperson Tamara Aparton tells SFGate, "The health order is clear that people can use parks for exercise, which is vital to our mental and physical health. Our rangers have been conducting outreach and education when they see people gathering or violating social distancing guidelines."
As of Wednesday, San Francisco will begin enforcing a new order, issued Friday, that requires everyone to wear masks or facial coverings in public spaces, with potential for citations and fines.