CASTRO VALLEY (KPIX) — As Easter weekend began, Bay Area leaders implored people to stay home and many parks were temporarily closed.

“This is the year we ask you to give up Easter in your traditional way of picnics and things like that,” said Robert Doyle, the general manager of the East Bay Regional Parks District.

Easter weekend is the busiest of the year at East Bay parks, which is why 10 of the most popular parks are closing their parking lots Saturday and Sunday to try to reduce the potential crowds.

Parks officials say people are doing a good job of social distancing once they are on the trails but it’s getting there that’s a problem.

“The parking — the getting through the gates — think of how many people are touching those gates,” Doyle said.

Health experts say California and the Bay Area as a whole are not seeing an extreme spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, partly due to the early success of social distancing. But that’s also what makes this weekend difficult for so many people.

“They want to get outside. They want to spend time with loved ones and friends. The weather is nice but the problem is that the virus is still circulating in the population,” said Dr. Arthur Reingold, head of epidemiology at UC Berkeley.

If people let down their guard for a weekend, everything could change.

“If people don’t continue social distancing, we will see a spike of infection in about 10 to 14 days and perhaps an increase in hospitalizations and very sick people a week after that,” says Dr. Reingold.

That’s why the most popular parks will close parking lots and bathrooms, a decision that brings mixed reaction from people who use those open spaces.

“In order to keep us safe and sound we’ve got to follow the rules and give each other a little extra room,” said Tom Tyler on Friday as he walked at Lake Chabot with his wife, Cheryl.

“The whole thing seems like an overreaction,” said Terry Petty who was also visiting Lake Chabot.

The 10 additional closures are supposed to be temporary measures for the weekend but parks directors say if they see overcrowding, they will be forced to take more longterm action.

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