Minneapolis officials say too many are ignoring posted virus signs

A sign reads "do you part to keep the rims on."
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has started attaching these signs to some park basketball equipment at the city's parks. City officials may get tougher on people who ignore social distancing rules. However, Minneapolis police are not eager to issue fines.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

The head of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is warning visitors that if they continue to disregard social distancing rules, some amenities will be closed off.

“Despite our efforts, we continue to see park users not following social distancing guidelines,” said Superintendent Al Bangoura in a statement released Thursday. “Locally and across the country, urban and suburban park agencies have had to close playgrounds, trails, athletic courts and athletic fields to the public, and we would really like to avoid having to do so.”

The park board has posted signs that encourage people to stay 6 feet apart. And recently, it has attached signs to some poles that support basketball hoops.

The signs say it’s OK for individuals to shoot baskets on their own or to play in small numbers with household members. However, playing with nonhousehold members is not allowed. And the signs say repeated noncompliance will result in the hoops coming down.

Minneapolis City Council member Phillipe Cunningham said he’d like to see more specific signs with information designed to dispel myths about the virus posted in areas where people are congregating in his ward.

Cunningham, who is black, wants his largely African American constituents to be disabused of the notion that they are not likely to get the virus.

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“In fact, it’s disproportionately impacting black Americans,” said Cunningham. “I think [that] is necessary for folks on the north side to understand.”

Cunningham said that while the problem of people ignoring social distancing is not specific to the north side, messages should be targeted and visible to the people who aren’t reading the latest COVID-19 guidelines issued by the state or the city.

"I think that it's important for us to meet folks where they are,” said Cunningham. “Something like a visual cue would be helpful."

Mayor Jacob Frey said on Friday the city is now pushing the majority of 911 calls about suspected violations of social distancing to the nonemergency 311 service. And he said the city’s focus is still on education and outreach, not writing citations and issuing fines.

“We know how a fine of say, $1,000 could have a disproportionate impact on our lower income communities and our communities of color. And that’s something we wanted to avoid,” said Frey. “As of just a couple of days ago, there had not been any fines nor arrests that have been made.”