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NYC playgrounds may close for social distancing, Mayor de Blasio warns

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, left,

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, discusses the arrival of a shipment of 400 ventilators with Dr. Steven Pulitzer, the Chief Medical Officer of NYC Health and Hospitals, at the city's Emergency Management Warehouse. on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan

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Public playgrounds could be closed during the coronavirus outbreak if families don’t maintain sufficient space among those who don’t live together, Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened Tuesday.

With at least 14,776 positive test results and 131 virus-related deaths, de Blasio said the NYPD and other agencies would be on the lookout for people in the playgrounds as well as the parks who aren’t at least 6 feet apart.

“If people are not abiding by the rules, if they’re not listening to the warnings, we may get to the point in just days where we have to close the playgrounds for the duration of this crisis,” he said. “It’s not something I want to do, but it’s something I’m ready to do if needed.”

De Blasio said Wednesday the city parks themselves — Central Park, Prospect Park — would remain open, albeit with the NYPD and other city agencies enforcing the state decree for social distance.

“Parks will remain open but with a lot of enforcement,” he said.

The mayor also said beginning Thursday that the city would pedestrianize two streets in each of the five boroughs — which authorities would supervise for adequate distancing.

He said a decision on the playgrounds would be made after a survey of parks between now and Saturday night.

The policy of social distancing — placing space between individuals to limit the virus’ spread — doesn’t apply to people who live together.

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“You don’t need to do the six-feet-apart out on the playground if it’s a mother out with her child," he said. "But you do need to keep your distance from everybody else — and your child does as well.”

A state order took effect Sunday night mandating staying indoors except under limited circumstances. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has said summonses and arrests were a last resort.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over the weekend asked the city to develop a plan to discourage groups from congregating in the parks. 

The leaders’ efforts come as they pleaded with the Trump administration for needed medical supplies to address the surge of coronavirus patients expected over the next few weeks.

Separately Tuesday, de Blasio declined to say whether the city has a plan, as do Washington State and Italy, to ration care in case of shortages. In Italy medical personnel with limited resources have had to choose who lives and dies.

“We of course know that we may get to a triage situation,” he said. “But I don't think it’s appropriate to start talking about not just a theoretical — a very painful theoretical — that I don’t think is fair to people to just lay out there as something that might happen."

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