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Police ‘Educating’ About Park Closures, While Some Defy Orders

Some people hoping to get out of the house and get some exercise are defying government efforts to maintain social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

On Monday, Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools closed all athletic fields and courts, as well as playgrounds and other outdoor recreational facilities where people congregate.

On Tuesday, people could be seen climbing through a gap in the fence at the popular Washington-Liberty track, in pursuit of maintaining their exercise routines. The two missing bars on the fence appear to have been “kicked in,” a tipster said.

Experts say that people deliberately ignoring government-imposed closures and social distancing measures is a “formula for disaster” that can accelerate the spread of the virus. Such people may think they’re doing something innocuous, or that they’re at low risk of health consequences should they contract COVID-19, but the collective defiance can collectively lead to bad outcomes.

Arlington police, meanwhile, say they’re working with county park rangers to educate the public about the closures.

“Arlington County Police Department is supporting Department Parks and Recreation Park Rangers and Rovers in educating the public regarding the closures of County and APS parks, playgrounds, fields, restrooms, tracks, dog parks and athletic courts,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “The goal is to gain voluntary compliance with the closures through education and signs will be posted at all affected locations. Rovers/Officers responding to these areas are informing the public of the closures and requesting individuals to move along and practice social distancing.”

“If the public sees large groups gathering in these locations, they can contact the Department of Parks and Recreation Roving Monitor at 571-238-0265 from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays,” Savage continued. “Afterhours concerns can be reported to the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.”

Savage said police are also working to ensure compliance with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent order for non-essential businesses to close.

“In accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order 53, officers are conducting proactive checks of all businesses to ensure compliance with those that are required to be closed and those permitted to be open while complying with social distancing requirements,” she said. “The County has disseminated information to the business community regarding the Order utilizing listservs, phone calls and officers personally handing out copies during proactive checks. The goal continues to be 100% voluntary compliance and no criminal enforcement action has been taken related to Executive Order 53.”

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