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Lathrop may close parks due to social distancing
lathrop park2

The City of Lathrop is warning residents that if they continue to violate social-distancing recommendations at city parks, the city will have no choice but to close them.

While the COVID-19 virus has forced many businesses to close and left many residents at home rather than work during the day, municipalities have seen an explosion in the number of people who are taking advantage of routine recreational opportunities within the community.

However, large groups of people gathering in parks is in violation of the current recommendations, and the city has gone so far as to post signs in each of the park and use Lathrop Police Services to educate the public when making routine patrols through neighborhoods.

“We are asking for your help to spread the word about respecting the social distancing guidelines as the spread of this COVID-19 virus – it is very serious and potentially a deadly matter,” Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal said in plea to residents made on Monday. “Unfortunately, if we continue to witness park goers not respecting social distancing, we will be forced to close all city parks.”

In an update posted on Tuesday, Dhaliwal said that the effort by the city and local police appears to have worked – the number of people violating the recommendations, which call for a distance of more than six feet between people and no large groups, went down.

But it’s not just Lathrop that is struggling to keep people from violating the order by recreating in local parks in groups or in close-proximity to one another.

According to Manteca City Councilman Gary Singh, Woodward Park was one of the busiest places in town over the weekend with hundreds of people flooding into the grassy basin and the playground and even setting up outdoor picnics.

Singh said that while some people using the park responsibly wouldn’t be a big problem, he observed people using the exercise equipment without wiping them down before or after they left, and children in abundance on the playground equipment – creating an environment where the virus could be easily transmitted amongst the populace.

According to medical experts, one of the challenges of controlling the spread of COVID-19 is the fact that the majority of people who are infected don’t know that they have it – the long incubation period coupled with the fact that people can be asymptomatic makes it easily transmittable.

“The longer people are going out and congregating in places, the longer this is going to go on for,” Singh said. “We’d rather people stay home so that we get through this.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.