The need to follow social distancing rules -- particularly in city parks -- to contain the spread of the coronavirus was emphasized Tuesday by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.
As he first mentioned in a media briefing Monday, Suthers repeated Tuesday that too many people are gathering in groups of 11 or more in parks, in violation of Gov. Jared Polis' recent order.
"They may be playing sports, they may be having picnics," he said. "Do not engage in any team sports, organized or pick-up. We're seeing too many impromptu football, soccer, basketball and volleyball games in our parks. You play these games and (it's impossible to)maintain social distancing."
Suthers said some of the violators are younger people who believe the virus poses no serious threat to them, while others may not be aware of the governor's order and the reasons why it's in place.
"We've had people call us to complain about larger groups and city staff have seen it also," he said.
Suthers said the city will start using park rangers and school resource officers to patrol parks and remind violators of the order.
"We're not going to cite people, write tickets or fine them," he said. "We're going to give them friendly reminders. If that doesn't work, we may have to restrict the use of some parks or close them. I'm hoping people will help us avoid having to do that."
A KRDO NewsChannel 13 crew visited Garden of the Gods and did not see a group containing more than 10 people.
"But there are more people here today than I expected," said Chris Prichard, who brought his wife and four kids for a visit. "We thought about going somewhere else, but we decided on here. We're being careful with our social distancing. The weather is nice and we needed to get out of the house. That's where we've been since this all started."
And therein lies another concern -- Garden of the Gods' popularity -- which is why Suthers is asking people to spread out and visit other parks.
"Try new parks, new trails and open spaces," he said. "We don't want to close Garden of the Gods, but we will if we need to."
Josh Mullins and his girlfriend, Britney Kennedy, said they drove around and looked at several parks to visit, finally deciding on Memorial Park because it didn't appear to be as congested as usual.
"I'm glad the city is cracking down on the social distancing rules," Mullins said. "I think the city ought to do more and actually fine violators because this is a serious situation we're in with the virus."
"All they're asking us to do is stay at home," she said. "We should be able to do that without complaining. If we all do that, the U.S. might avoid the fate of Italy and China. We're here only for a little bit of exercise and then we're going back home."
The skateboard park at Memorial Park was packed with kids, teens and young adults Tuesday.
"I don't think the virus is making many of us come here less often," said Josh Corbin, a veteran skateboarder. "But we're aware of how serious it is. We're being careful. If the city needs to enforce the rules more, that's fine. There's already an officer who regularly patrols this area, anyway."
Also at Memorial Park on Tuesday evening, there was a group of at least two dozen people playing soccer, and a similarly-sized group playing volleyball.
The volleyball players broke up and left after learning of the mayor's plans to enforce the social distancing rules.