During Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's daily COVID-19 briefing, he noted that county parks were experiencing issues with too many people congregating in just a limited number of the 10,000 acres available throughout the system. His latest warning came hours before having to confirm two more coronavirus-related deaths in Erie County.
As of the county executive's Tuesday afternoon briefing, there were 499 total positive tests for COVID-19, including 438 active cases. A total 53 patients were deemed recovered. At the time of the briefing, officials took some comfort in reporting that they had not received any new reports of fatalities.
But a few hours later, the total number of cases was raised to 553, including two deaths. (The county's COVID-19 case map may be found here.) In all, 10 people in Erie County have died since the virus was first identified within the region.
Poloncarz pointed out earlier in the day that the virus has affected and made ill people of various ages, and both men and women.
"This is a non discriminatory disease that is affecting people all across the world, and it's no different here in Erie County," he said. "It's affecting people of all age ranges, all genders, all races, all religious beliefs. And it's kind of scary to see that there's so many individuals have tested positive in the younger age groups. We want to just reaffirm to the public that just because you're younger, it doesn't mean you're not going to get it."
He went on to address reports of people continuing to recreate, in closer spaces than urged by health officials, in the county's parks. He again encouraged people to take advantage of the thousands of acres of space, but renewed calls to honor physical distancing. He also discouraged going to the eternal flame at Chestnut Ridge Park and the waterfall at Akron Falls Park, identifying them as two destinations that have been become sites frequented by too many people during the pandemic.
Erie County Parks Commissioner Troy Schinzel announced that while parks are open, many of its facilities are not.
"Golf courses are closed, playgrounds are closed, and basketball courts are closed in all county parks," he said. "We've taken the rims off our basketball courts. At our playgrounds, we have signage up and taken off the swings. At this time of year, typically we would not be open at the golf courses, regardless. Internally, over the next week or so, I'll be meeting with staff. We'll be discussing if we're going to open our golf courses, when we're going to open our golf courses, and what steps or measures we're going to put in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19."
Park rentals scheduled through April 26 have been canceled. Those who scheduled rentals will receive full refunds, Schinzel said.