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Park users are violating coronavirus rules, American Canyon police chief says

Park users are violating coronavirus rules, American Canyon police chief says

From the Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan series
  • Updated
American Canyon sign

“It’s an odd time right now,” said American Canyon Police Chief Oscar Ortiz said. “There is less traffic, but the stores are very busy.”

“It’s eerie for everybody,” he said.

One area of frustration, Ortiz said, has been that some young people aren’t getting the picture about the importance of social distancing and staying at home to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus.

He described police approaching a basketball game under way at a local park and telling the players that they needed to break it up and go home, only to be told it was “just a friendly game.”

“It’s concerning that so many people fail to understand the mitigation orders,” Ortiz said. “We’re still seeing gatherings in the parks, and I think that’s from a lack of understanding. There’s a false sense of security among many young people, and that’s incredibly dangerous.”

Similar conditions seem to prevail in the city of Napa, with some non-essential businesses remaining open despite orders to shut down, city spokesperson Jaina French said.

“We have seen folks are (mostly) following state and county orders, but we are referring folks to the county if they have a tip about businesses out of compliance,” she said. “They can forward that information and then we’ll reach out to that business, and let them know that if their business doesn’t meet the criteria of an essential business, they need to close.”

Napa police will also contact people who they may see congregating in parks and other public places and remind them that they should be staying at home, she said.

“We are urging people to follow the shelter-at-home orders unless there’s an essential need like getting food or medicine,” French said. “This will help our whole community get through this and flatten that curve as soon as possible.”

This refers to the hope of slowing the COVID-19 pandemic’s spread to prevent a spike in cases that could overwhelm hospitals, and to allow time for a treatment, a cure and/or a vaccine to be developed.

“There is some frustration or concerns from the community, some of whom don’t understand why the government is taking these actions,” Ortiz said. “The panic buying and hording is not necessarily understandable, as officials enact measures to ‘flatten the curve.’”

But, for the most part, it seems to be working, and “police are out in numbers, patrolling the schools, the parking lots and the neighborhoods,” to ensure it stays that way, he said.

“I think most people are staying home,” Ortiz said. “Essential workers are out, so it’s not a ghost town out there.”

Ortiz said it might help to figuratively put yourself in your neighbor’s shoes.

“If you’re nervous about this outbreak, know there are people who are older or who have underlying conditions who are twice as scared as you,” he said. “This is a time to be kind, and I know that Napa demonstrates that, especially to our vulnerable community. This is going to pass, and we’ll return to normal.”

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