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A couple riding a bike and scooter wearing protective masks in Central Park. Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Closed businesses, home offices and schools amid the coronavirus pandemic has translated into an influx of outdoor recreation in parks, despite states' advice for people to stay home.

Why it matters: So many people are visiting city parks to escape the stuck-at-home monotony that the public spaces have become crowded. Some people are exercising in groups or playing contact sports, undermining social distancing recommendations.

Driving the news: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a pilot program to open up a New York City street in each borough for residents to walk at a safe distance from each other.

The big picture: The decision comes as a potential solution for the state to keep dense clusters of people at bay when the warmer weather entices outdoor exercise or socializing, a huge problem especially with young people, Cuomo said.

"We have many fewer vehicles in New York City — open streets, people want to walk. They want to go out and get some air. They want a less dense area, so [we will] pilot closing streets to cars, opening streets to pedestrians."
— Cuomo

Details: Starting on Friday through Monday, March 30, vehicles won't be able to drive on specified streets from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Cuomo is also asking people to voluntarily give up contact sports in parks such as basketball.

Yes, but: Some cities and states have had to close off areas or parks because the risk of illness spreading in mass crowds was believed to be too high.

  • In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee closed all parks and wildlife areas, the Seattle Times reports.
  • Some Florida beaches in Clearwater and Miami have closed to keep spring breakers away.
  • In Washington D.C., police blocked off roads to the Tidal Basin, where the famous cherry blossom trees attract massive crowds every year, the Washington Post reports.

Cities are following public health department guidance to manage public spaces, but people need the outdoors for mental and physical health, especially during stressful times, said Catherine Nagel, executive director of City Parks Alliance, a nonprofit.

  • In Memphis, she said, park volunteers are going online to talk about practicing safe distancing at parks. New York City is setting up live web cameras so people can see flowering trees from their computers. Other cities are telling park patrons to exercise on their own.
  • "For people cooped up in very dense areas, it's important to find ways to allow people to be outside, even if they're able to walk along the streets," Nagel said. "Parks and nature play a great role in our resiliency."

Go deeper

Momentum builds to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some progressive Democrats and MAGA Republicans are uniting on a proposal to ban sitting lawmakers from trading individual stocks, although it's unlikely that leadership will bring the bill up for a vote.

Why it matters: Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.

Colleyville Rabbi credits survival to active-shooter training

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the people taken hostage in a synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, said in an interview with CBS Monday that he initially took in the man because he thought he needed shelter.

The big picture: Cytron-Walker said he spoke to the hostage taker, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, for several minutes and made him tea before Akram took the rabbi and three other people hostage during Shabbat services for around 11 hours in Colleyville, Texas.