Redwood City parks enforce COVID-19 guidelines


Maya Campbell

A group of people play in an unsanctioned pickup soccer game, wearing no face coverings and not practicing social distancing.

The Redwood City Parks and Recreation Department has begun tackling the issue of people not following guidelines and people holding unsanctioned soccer games at the parks.

While these two instances wouldn’t be a problem under normal circumstances, with the ongoing pandemic, the occurrences put the community in danger of spreading COVID-19.

Full contact, maskless soccer games have been seen at many local parks in San Mateo County, and many people have mixed feelings.

“Technically, if you look around the park, there are signs that say only youth groups all are allowed to have access to the fields, yet there are still groups that come in and play,” said Alexander Herrera, a youth sports coach.

Recently, youth sports teams have been allowed to hold small practices at Red Morton, a public park in Redwood City. According to the California Department of Public Health’s guidelines, in outdoor settings, teams are allowed to take off masks as long as the members are distancing physically from each other. 

However, as stated in the Redwood City COVID-19 Response, pickup games, or unplanned and impromptu games, are prohibited in all fields and open areas. The games are typically full-contact, and while they’re outdoors, spreading COVID-19 is still a significant possibility. 

“I don’t feel unsafe as long as I have a mask, but it is nerve-racking to see large groups when the virus can spread so easily,” said Madelyn Brouchouda freshman at Sacred Heart Prep who often visits parks. 

Another concern people have is the non-athletic groups that don’t follow guidelines. In the guidelines, people are expected to maintain distance and wear a mask because, according to a study conducted by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), masks can reduce the risk of getting infected in high-risk encounters by 70%.

However, forgetfulness or neglect can lead to people not wearing masks in public spaces. 

In Red Morton, many people don’t wear masks, get too close, or let their children run around wild. The Redwood City Parks and Recreation department heard the concerns and is actively working to address them. 

“We’ve had some of our staff go out and kindly remind them of the rules,” said Chris Beth, the director of Parks, Recreation, and Services within the department. 

According to Beth, the department has been deploying staff members to hand out masks and observe the parks. This strategy has decreased the number of rule-breakers so far and hasn’t met much opposition. However, there have been a couple of instances where parkgoers refused to comply with the rules.

“We have had individuals shout or assault our staff before, and that’s why we have elevated the instances to a police level,” Beth said. 

Incidents involving assault and shouting have been reasonably isolated, and the number of maskless groups has begun to decline.

Due to the department’s capacity, having staff watching the parks at all times is impossible. The best way to protect your local park is to report infractions and remind others to social distance and wear a mask.

Many people play in an unsanctioned pickup soccer game, wearing no face coverings and not practicing social distancing.

“I’d feel safe if everyone takes precautionary measures of making boundaries around our respective groups, but now that more people are being allowed out, it’s a bit daunting in a way because it’s like we are back to normal, but in a pandemic,” Herrera said.