Sixty to 70 carloads of young adults in Philadelphia’s East Torresdale section held an hours-long get-together last week that was reminiscent of an Eagles tailgate party, a stunned couple told The Inquirer.
A group of teenagers was spotted hanging out — and all over one another — outside the CVS drugstore at City and Haverford Avenues in Overbrook Park, a concerned resident posted on a neighborhood online message board.
And a house party in an Airbnb rental home on Rodman Street in Center City lasted so long that revelers were still on the block when the sun came up, said Sarah Maiellano, a neighbor. More unnerving than the noise, they also sat on her front steps, smoking and touching all over the railings, Maiellano said.
Judging from the empty sidewalks and streets, Philadelphians are largely doing an admirable job complying with the coronavirus social distancing orders. But clearly not everyone — to the dismay of those eager to help stop the spread of the deadly virus.
“We want to help flatten the curve and we want to help protect ourselves and our families and other people, so we were concerned that there was a group that wasn’t taking this seriously at all,” Maiellano said. “We went out in the morning and Lysol-ed and wiped down our steps and our railing.”
A call to City Councilmember Mark Squilla’s office was referred to Mayor Jim Kenney’s office. After Maiellano complained to several news outlets, the manager of the property texted her that it would no longer be rented out for parties.
The city actually wants those with complaints about violations of Kenney’s stay-at-home order to call 311. “All Philadelphia residents must remain home or at their place of residence unless they are engaged in essential personal activities that are spelled out in the order. We are optimistic that all residents will recognize the severity of the situation and will voluntarily stay home,” a city spokesperson said.
In New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has urged the public and business owners to comply with the governor’s emergency orders and warned that those who fail to do so will be held accountable. Among 24 people who have been arrested for violating the order prohibiting large gatherings, Grewal said, were two people charged with maintaining a nuisance for holding a wedding in Lakewood; a man charged with maintaining a nuisance for holding a gathering of about 25 young men at a school where he is headmaster in Lakewood; and someone charged with a disorderly persons offense for holding a party in Bridgeton.
To report social distancing violations in New Jersey, members of the public can call local police departments or note them at covid19.nj.gov/violation.
In Philadelphia, violators are not being charged, at least not yet.
“Look. I get it. We’re all going a little stir-crazy right now. We miss our friends, we miss our regular lives, and even the smallest reason to go on an ‘essentials’ run can be something to look forward to! But this is exactly what we’re NOT supposed to be doing right now,” Melanie Grenier wrote on Nextdoor, a social networking platform, about the teenagers congregated at the CVS. “It sucks, but it’s also REALLY IMPORTANT, and pharmacies by their very nature are going to be utilized by the people who are most at risk — the elderly, the ill, and those with medical conditions.”
Mike Modisett, 35, said he called the police about the revelry in East Torresdale but did not see officers respond to the area.
“Basically, there were about 60 or 70 cars that could not get into Pleasant Hill Park because the city shut that down because of the coronavirus. All that did was push them onto our street and it turned into an Eagles pregame event with a bunch of people drinking and partying and loud music, defying the governor’s order to stay at home,” Modisett said.
A police spokesperson said officers responded to the scene, but said no further details were available.
The party began around 3 p.m. Thursday and started to lose steam shortly before 7:30, said Modisett, who works for a defense contractor. “My wife and I are looking at it like, ‘This is why the virus is spreading, because people are not taking it seriously.’ ”
As orders by the governors of New Jersey and Pennsylvania make clear, it’s still OK to go outside to exercise or grocery-shop as long as you keep your distance from others.
For many people, contemplative strolls have been central to maintaining their sanity. But as the weather warms and more people yearn for fresh air, popular outdoor areas and trails are growing crowded, making it nearly impossible to maintain the recommended 6-foot social distancing standard.
Terry Brady, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said state parks have increased signage and social media messaging for people to park in different lots and take their trash home. Philadelphia has also posted signs to encourage social distancing at parks.