Everyone is getting a little coronavirus claustrophobia. It feels a lot like that itching you feel toward the end of a nor’easter, when all you want is to do is go out to eat or maybe see a movie but you’d be hard pressed to make it to the end of your driveway.
The weather is nice as far spring in New England goes, and spending time outside the house is maybe even a good thing for our collective health. Isn’t that what the experts say, the same ones who’ve told us to keep our distance from one another, at least six feet, lest we spread the virus and the dangerous disease it causes?
Alas, there’s always someone to ruin a good thing.
Some of the best places to ride out this self-imposed isolation and social distancing are closed or in danger of closing. In Methuen, city parks are open — for now. Officials warn that they’re monitoring the situation and could make those public places off-limits if crowds grow too big and people are recreating dangerously close to one another.
In Manchester, officials shut down the town’s beaches and parks, forced to take drastic action in light of a crush of people who decided to spend last weekend “social distancing” together in the sunshine.
“The beaches on Saturday were extremely busy,” police Chief Todd Fitzgerald told reporter Taylor Ann Bradford. “I spoke with some of the business owners down there, and they said sales were better than a 95-degree, Fourth of July afternoon.”
In Gloucester, police anticipated similar troubles and closed the gates to their city’s beach parking lots. That led to 30 to 40 cars parked along Atlantic Street, outside Wingaersheek Beach, some of which were rewarded with tickets for blocking passage to emergency vehicles, according to police Chief Ed Conley.
“It is upsetting to me that people aren’t taking this more seriously, and it is causing me to divert resources there,” he told Bradford.
Some of the best outdoor places in our region are closed altogether. Mass Audubon and the Trustees of Reservations shut their facilities, including trails and beaches, in light of Gov. Charlie Baker’s order earlier this week shuttering non-essential businesses. That means Crane Beach in Ipswich is off limits. So too are Joppa Flats in Newburyport.
“When COVID-19 first began spreading in Massachusetts, our wildlife sanctuaries offered a place for people to escape,” Mass Audubon explained in a blog post. “We closed our buildings but invited visitors to walk the trails while observing social distancing guidelines. And many, many people took us up on that offer.”
So many, in fact, that parking lots filled and it was hard to walk along a trail without breaking the invisible barrier of social distancing, the group explained.
Lest you think this has something to do with Massachusetts people fulfilling a stereotype of a strong willed, uncaring person from Massachusetts, it’s happening in other places too.
In Denver, the mayor has ordered people to stay inside, except in only a handful of circumstances. Nice weather in Colorado last weekend, which enticed many to pack a picnic or take part in a pick-up game in a park, brought on Mayor Michael Hancock’s dictum, according to local news reports. For the record, people are still allowed outside — even into a local park — to take a walk.
It’s too bad. These times of coronavirus would be a lot easier if we could head to our favorite parks or beaches. For that to happen, though, everyone has to be willing to look out for themselves — and each another — enough to keep moving when a place is crowded.
In related news, Rigazzi’s restaurant is offering take-out these days, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, its dining room having closed along with other restaurants in the city. You’ll remember Rigazzi’s as the place made famous by the St. Louis native and late Yankees catcher Yogi Berra when he said, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”