news 3 days ago

Oakdale Community Park closes again as crowds gather, coronavirus spikes

The Modesto Bee — Kevin Valine The Modesto Bee

Aug. 01-- Aug. 1--Oakdale has closed for a second time its popular Oakdale Community Park because too many people were using its skate park and basketball court without social distancing as the new coronavirus continues its surge in Stanislaus County.

City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said he recently saw about 30 people gathered at the full-court basketball court. And he said the skate park can draw 150 to 200 people. Both facilities are lighted.

He said those kinds of numbers make social or physical distancing difficult. He said under normal circumstance the city would be pleased that so many enjoy the park but we are living through a pandemic.

Stanislaus County has one of the highest positivity rates for COVID-19 -- the disease caused by the coronavirus -- in California. The rate is the percentage of people who test positive for the virus among the total number tested. In June, the county had a positivity rate of 8.49%. In July, it was 19.08%.

Fifteen percent of those testing positive for COVID in Stanislaus County are 20 years or younger, and nearly 4 in 10 are 30 and younger.

All of these numbers are from the Stanislaus County's COVID-19 dashboard.

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Whitemyer said the city reopened Oakdale Community Park in early to mid May after closing it to help stop the virus. He said Oakdale's other parks remain open, and he asks park users to practice physical distancing. That means keeping six feet from people who are not part of your household.

The dashboard reports that 36 Oakdale residents were positive for COVID-19 as of July 1. The number was 175 as of Friday, according to the dashboard.

Parks started reopening in late April

This comes after Stanislaus County cities started reopening parks in late April that they had shuttered in the pandemic's early stages. But as the county has experienced a resurgence of the virus, cities are keeping a close eye on their parks.

Waterford closed its River Park and South Reinway Park and Trail Head on Tuesday because of crowds, the lack of physical distancing and concerns about the coronavirus. Mayor Michael Van Winkle said officials asked the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department to patrol the area and write citations, but enforcement did not work.

Modesto's parks remain open, but spokesman Thomas Reeves said city officials "are monitoring the rise in COVID-19 cases ... and we may make a decision to close additional facilities, but there has not been an official decision."

Reeves said Modesto is looking at all of its facilities that have public access and whether they need to be closed to the public again, including Tenth Street Place, the city-county administration center, in downtown. He said the city is working with the county on any decision regarding Tenth Street Place.

Reeves said Modesto is focused on getting the word out to residents to wear face coverings and to practice physical distancing. He said the city also is targeting that message among its Latino residents. The Latino community is contracting COVID-19 at a higher rate than other communities.

Riverbank limits Jacob Myers visitors

Turlock City Manager Toby Wells said his city's skate park remains open. "We continue to monitor and have not been experiencing any issues ...," he said in a text message. "We have signage and continue to educate on social media. (It's) working so far."

Wells said Turlock parks' green spaces are open, but the playgrounds are closed.

Riverbank is limiting the number of cars that enter its Jacob Myers Park along the Stanislaus River to prevent overcrowding. "Sometimes it can be challenging, especially on very hot days when people want to visit the river," City Manager Sean Scully said in a text message. "But we manage it the best we can under the circumstances."

Scully said Riverank's other parks remain open and have not had the overcrowding that can happen at Jacob Myers.

Oakdale said in its Facebook post that closing Oakdale Community Park, which is along South Yosemite Avenue and just south of F Street, was a difficult decision but was made out of an abundance of caution and to safeguard people's health.

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