Haverhill looking at alternative measures to enforce social distancing

Haverhill's mayor said the town may start fining issuing fines if people continue to gather in large groups outdoors.

HAVERHILL — We’ve been talking about the importance of social distancing for weeks. By now, everybody knows what it is and why it’s so important.

But local and state leaders say some people are still gathering in large groups.

In Haverhill, Mayor Jim Fiorentini sent his police officers in to close one of his parks.

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“I want people to stay at home,” Fiorentini said.

Parked outside of Plug Pond in Haverhill is a sign that is hard to miss: “Maintain social distancing.”

The city added these signs after the mayor was forced to send his own police department in to shut down the park when a large group of fishermen packed the pond Wednesday.

“We had 50 to 100 cars there yesterday, everybody congregating together in this time of a crisis, we just couldn’t allow that. So we sent the police up, we broke it up," Fiorentini said.

This isn’t just a problem in Haverhill. Some towns like Danvers have closed their parks and are urging parents to make sure their kids aren’t hanging out in groups there.

“The next two to three weeks are going to be critical,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said.

Walsh said people still aren’t listening, and they’re getting together at parks and beaches. Basketball nets in Boston are now zip-tied shut to discourage people from playing.

“I don’t want to issue fines and I don’t want to send the police officers out but we have prepared for these steps because if we don’t flatten the curve now through voluntary measures, these steps will be inevitable,” Walsh said.

On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker closed parking lots along the coast to prevent people from driving to the beach.

“Parking yourself on a beach on a blanket with a bar-b-que with 15 other people is just an incredibly bad idea,” Baker said.

When asked if he thinks people just aren’t getting social distancing or don’t care or don’t want to pay attention to it, Fiorentini said: “No, I don’t. I feel that the vast majority of people are paying attention."

"I think the vast majority of people get it and will continue to," he said.

State health officials believe the number of hospitalizations will peak in the middle of this month.

Haverhill’s mayor said it’s possible his city could start issuing fines if people continue to gather in large groups.