Darryl Thomas couldn't believe what he saw as he drove past one of the city's popular outdoor gathering spots.
On Saturday, he spotted large crowds at the Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park, an area many people refer to as “the Plat.”
“I was on an emotional roller coaster. I got scared, nervous, frustrated, and angry,” Thomas said.
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Thomas said the large crowds made him worry. He’s afraid many people aren’t abiding by social distancing guidelines, a potentially life-threatening mistake as the city battles the COVID-19 outbreak. As of Monday, the coronavirus had claimed the lives of 190 Philadelphians, according to the city’s health department.
The coronavirus is also personal to Thomas. His 78-year-old mother is battling the virus. When he drove by the Plat on Saturday, he was on his way to see her.
“My mother is the rock of our family. She’s self-sufficient, but after getting the coronavirus…I had to carry her up a flight of steps," Thomas said. "This is serious.”
Thomas contacted Councilman Curtis Jones and told him about the large gathering, since it’s within his district. Jones said he then spoke police and the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department to disperse the crowd.
On Monday morning, Jones released a video to NBC10, wherein he urged his constituents and all city residents to follow the social distancing rules.
“I understand that human beings want to be with each other. It’s in our nature. But when you deal with COVID-19 and this virus, to violate social distancing rules—you’re suicidal," Jones said. "And it becomes homicidal when you take it home to your loved ones — auntie, uncle, grandparents."
A spokesperson with the city's parks and recreation department said when it learned about the large gathering over the weekend, it placed a lock on the site. The problem is, someone broke the lock to regain access. The department said it replaced the lock on Monday.
Jones said he will continue to make sure the site remains inaccessible, for the safety of Philadelphians.
“I consider this like rounds in a fight. We’re going to lock it again with a better lock. We’re going to have police doing ride-throughs in the area," Jones said. "We’re not giving up."
The Parks and Recreation Dept. is asking anyone to call 311 or police if they see large groups of people gathering in public spaces.