Residents across the tri-state area will be tested on social distancing this weekend as warm weather returns, tempting many to leave their homes amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The high temperature for Saturday and Sunday is expected to reach into the mid-70s for the first time in weeks, and the sunny spring weather has officials concerned.
“The spring fever, we’re all going to feel it more and more,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday.
May will be a crucial month in combating the COVID-19 outbreak as the rate of new cases, hospitalizations and other key health indicators continue to drop. All of that progress could be wiped out if New Yorkers do not take social distancing seriously, de Blasio warned.
“May, I think, is going to be a decisive month. A chance for us to do something great here in this city,” the mayor said. “The truth is May could be a great month for this city in terms of fighting back and really starting to turn the tide on this disease, but it’s going to require us to be tough and disciplined, and the warmer weather will make that harder.”
To get ahead of possible overcrowding in city parks this weekend, de Blasio announced the new “Open Streets” program would launch Saturday instead of Monday. As of Saturday morning, seven miles of city streets in or surrounding parks in the city are open for pedestrian use.
The NYPD also dispatched 1,000 officers this weekend to enforce social distancing rules. Officers set out on foot, bicycles and in cars to break up crowds and remind everyone of public health restrictions requiring they keep 6 feet away from others.
The NYPD has made 60 arrests and issued 343 summonses related to social distancing since March 16. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea issued a stern warning after a series of clashes this week between police officers and members of orthodox Jewish communities over social distancing.
“Our public health leaders have made very clear our path forward — practice social distancing, wear a face covering, and stay at home as much as possible,” Shea said in the statement. “Our police officers will be out there, as they always have been, to make sure that the people of this city are safe — and in this case that means spreading this important public health message.”
While Central Park didn’t appear to be overcrowded Saturday afternoon, Jones Beach on Long Island was a popular choice.
The boardwalk was busy as masked people walked, jogged and bikes along the shore while others chose to lounge on the sand.
In New Jersey, residents are able to visit state parks for the first time since March.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order earlier this week allowing state parks, county parks and golf courses to reopen beginning Saturday morning. However, he also warned that areas will be monitored and shut down if social distancing rules are not followed.
“I recognize that we all want to be outside getting fresh air,” Murphy said. “We are trusting in you to keep up with your social distancing.”
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, meanwhile, has announced the first phase of his statewide reopening plan will begin May 20. Outdoor dining at restaurants will be allowed and remaining retail establishments, hair and nail services, outdoor exhibits at zoos and museums, camping and university research will be allowed to restart.
This story comprises reporting from the Associated Press.