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Cuomo closes New York City's playgrounds

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Keeping social distance is vital to bring the coronavirus crisis under some sort of control. But what Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeing in New York City playgrounds, however, is not what he feels will "flatten the curve" when it comes to infections.

And with a stroke of his pen, Cuomo has closed the city's playgrounds to the public. 

"We're going to take more dramatic actions," Cuomo said during his April 1 news briefing. "We are going to close the New York City playgrounds. I've talked about this for weeks. I warned people that if they didn't stop the density and the games in the playgrounds ... that we would close the playgrounds."

Cuomo closed down much of New York state to "non-essential" workers effective March 22. Public schools, restaurants and bars had already been closed for days, leaving a small number of "essential" businesses open, including grocery stores and pharmacies.

But Cuomo left the parks and playgrounds open, but only as long as those using the parks and playgrounds observed social distancing measures. That meant staying six feet away from people who were not part of their immediate household. Although children could play on the equipment, they had to keep apart. 

At the time, Mayor Bill de Blasio used his own daily briefing to try and explain how social distancing in playgrounds would work.

"If a mom goes to the playground with her child, she's already in constant contact with her child," de Blasio said at the time. "But if that child comes into contact with another child from a different family, or that mom came into contact with another mom from a different family," then that's where there will be issues.

"We're going to say to parents, 'Here is the reality. If you're going to go on a playground, you have to take full responsibility for the situation," de Blasio said. "If there are already some people on the playground, and you can't keep six feet away from people, don't go on the playground."

Social media posts, however, showed families were doing the exact opposite in many parts of the city, with playground and ballfields crowded with friends and family — many standing in close proximity of each other. de Blasio decided last week to remove basketball hoops in some city parks, where players were still gathering for games.

de Blasio also urged people to call 311 if they spotted large gatherings in violation of social distancing rules. He warned the New York Police Department would enforce social distancing on public transport, and throughout the city, issuing fines of up to $500.

Open spaces and lawns in parks will remain open for those in need of some fresh air and exercise, however, Cuomo said.

"Use the open space in a park," the governor said. "Walk around. Get some sun. Great. No density. No basketball games. No close contacts. No violation of social distancing. Period."

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