Life in Claremont changes as coronavirus precautions kick in
by Steven Felschundneff | firstname.lastname@example.org
After one week of Los Angeles County’s “Safer at Home” order, and a similar directive coming from Sacramento instructing residents to stay at home, life has changed profoundly in Claremont.
At first things seemed pretty normal. In the Village some streets were more crowded than others, and there was noticeably more available parking, but it was far from the lockdown that many had feared—at least for now.
The city made some big changes to comply with the order announced by Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday evening.
City offices will be closed with only essential employees working, however, the police department will continue to be fully staffed.
“We are sending those employees that are not currently providing the most vital of our essential services home to protect them and their loved ones from the spread of COVID-19,” City Manager Tara Schultz announced in a statement posted on the City of Claremont’s official Facebook page.
“The police department will continue their mission to protect and serve the community. They have put protocols in place to protect officers and staff and those they come in contact with, from contributing to community spread,” according to the statement.
Additionally, the community services department will be working to maintain and clean city facilities, and trash services will proceed as scheduled. The drive-through senior nutrition program at Joslyn Senior Center will continue.
The recycling facility that contracts with the city has shut down, so all recyclables will be heading to the landfill along with the other trash. Residents can still use their blue bins for items that would be recycled, but the same truck will be dumping both blue and black bins.
At a special meeting of the Claremont City Council on Thursday, the council voted unanimously to declare a local state of emergency that was presented by Ms. Schultz earlier in the week. During the meeting Mayor Larry Schroeder and Councilmember Corey Calaycay participated from home as part of the effort to use social distancing. Members of the public could also participate from home, either by sending emails to be read by the clerk or by arranging in advance to have the clerk telephone them during the public comment period.
The majority of public comments focused on the loss of wages caused by the mandatory shuttering of nonessential business and the resulting difficulty on the part of residents to pay basic expenses, including rent. Many urged the council to enact a ban on evictions as part of the declaration of emergency.
The council ratified the state of emergency without adopting a local ban on evictions, but noted that such a moratorium on evictions is already in place, both within the county and through the federal government. Councilmember Jed Leano asked Ms. Schultz to draft a proposal to put aside $100,000 from the city’s housing asset fund to create an emergency reserve for Claremont residents facing eviction. The council will vote on that resolution at its next meeting, however, it is not known when that will take place because the one scheduled for March 24 has been cancelled. All commission meetings have also been cancelled.
Friday morning city maintenance crews were hard at work roping off playgrounds with yellow caution tape at all of the city’s public parks.
In the statewide “stay at home” order, Governor Newsom encouraged citizens to get out and exercise, but to also exercise social distancing.
Pomona College Professor Amanda Hollis-Brusky, with her daughters Eloise, 9, and Annabelle, 10, along with the family dog Hank, were using the basketball courts at Memorial Park to practice their jump shots and free throws. Ms. Hollis-Brusky said they have been getting out for an hour at least once a day since Claremont Unified School District closed schools last week.
Others were enjoying the park as well, either walking dogs or riding bikes and scooters.
The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park will be closed until further notice, and public restrooms and playgrounds at other Claremont parks are also closed until the stay at home order is lifted.
The city clarified that the closure of the Wilderness Park was due to staffing shortages brought on by the “stay at home order” and the resulting difficulty to maintain the portable toilets and to keep the trail safe.
Following a surge of visitors over the weekend that created unsafe congregating of hikers on Monday, the city took the additional step of closing the parking lots at several public parks and at the Evey Canyon trailhead for the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park.
“Due to the high number of people refusing to adhere to ‘social distancing’ at Thompson Creek Trail and at the soccer fields at La Puerta, along with people accessing the CLOSED CHWP via Evey Canyon, the city will be placing barricades to prevent parking at the entrance to the Thompson Creek parking lot off of Indian Hill and at La Puerta Sports Park,” according to a news release posted on the city’s official Facebook page.
“It was done to keep to keep congregation areas clear,” Public Information Officer Bevin Handel said. “That is the problem, they are meeting up to walk, with groups of ten people so [the city is] trying to minimize that.” She noted that other cities are closing some public spaces as well.
At about 9 a.m. on Sunday there were dozens of people using the trail, and while many were walking or running alone, there were also several groups of four or more. When these groups passed each other it was difficult to maintain the six-foot recommended distance.
Senior park ranger Jamie Torres was monitoring the hikers on Thompson Creek Trail and reminding visitors to keep a safe distance.
“You all practice that safe distancing,” he called out to a group of young men who grinned and waved. “Okay, have a good day,” he added.
He and the other rangers were talking to people to help them understand the importance of the following the rules ordered by the state’s governor. However, it was clear that additional action was required.
“Police personnel and park rangers will be enforcing the closure of the Wilderness Park, Thompson Creek Trail and Padua Park parking lots. Basketball hoops and volleyball nets have been removed from city parks after reports of games being played with large groups of participants. Park playgrounds and restrooms are closed. The restroom adjacent to City Hall remains open,” the city’s statement reads.
Thompson Creek Trail is now closed, including the parking lot at the Evey Canyon entrance along Mt. Baldy Road.
The parking lot adjacent to the intersection of Mills Avenue and Mt. Baldy Road, which is a frequent launch spot for both the Wilderness Park and Thompson Creek Trail, had only one parked car at noon Monday. Other drivers approaching the lot made U-turns when they spotted the barricades. One couple who approached the trailhead on foot stopped to read the “closed” sign but decided to walk on the trail anyway.
“The City has made this decision to ensure the intent of the ‘Safer at Home’ order to minimize person-to-person contact and slow the spread of COVID-19,” according to the statement.
By Tuesday, the scene in the Village was remarkably different. Although some business were still open, many were shuttered including Aruffo’s Italian Cuisine which was boarded up.
The city said it will update the public regularly via its Facebook page and that residents can also visit a special webpage launched by the city with details about the coronavirus at https://www.ci.claremont.ca.us/living/coronavirus-information.
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