The playground at Streator City Park is closed.
The playground at Streator City Park is closed.

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A parent and child were playing on a swingset in Ottawa until a police officer arrived and told them to move along.

An unusual circumstance any other time, but a safe reminder the playgrounds are off-limits during Governor JB Pritzker's stay-at-home order that was just extended Tuesday as a measure to ensure public health and safety.

Ottawa Police Chief Brent Roalson said he wants children to remain active, and they can by walking and running outside away from others, but for now the playgrounds are off limits.

"For the most part, the citizens have abided by (the order). It's been a transition for everyone," Roalson said. "It's a work in progress, is the way to look at it."

He expects it may become more difficult as the weather gets nicer and restless residents want to get out and enjoy it, but thus far it's gone well.

Marseilles Mayor Jim Hollenbeck said he's seen a lot less traffic in Marseilles when he's out on fire calls.

"I think people are complying the best they can, for the most part," Hollenbeck said.

The city has enacted a new program to do a check-in on any elderly or those with medical needs who are home alone. City officials have had three to four residents utilize the city's offer to pick up medicine or groceries for people who can't leave the house due to the coronavirus, either due to age or medical concerns.

"If they need just a few items, we'll go pick it up and deliver it to them, but if they need groceries, we've been working with the Marseilles Food Pantry to have them delivered to them," Hollenbeck said.

While parks and playgrounds are closed in Marseilles, Hollenbeck said he's hopeful people will continue to get out and take walks as the weather gets warmer for exercise. He said playgrounds have to be closed due to the proximity in which children play together.

In Ottawa, police have been enforcing the rules and for many it ends up just being a misunderstanding of exactly what is and isn't off-limits.

Roalson said police have withheld from adding anything visually to the public park to dissuade those from stopping by but they haven't ruled out locking a ball field or covering basketball hoops if needed.

Additionally, police have seen a "great response" from businesses and most stores have been compliant. Some essential businesses, such as grocery stores, have even placed marking on the floor to give customers a good sense of six-foot distancing from one another.

A few tips were received about non-essential businesses still operating but they had ceased operations by the time police arrived and a few businesses had issues with the transportation of alcohol, namely cocktails, which were cleared up with additional information from the state.

He also recommends if you arrive at a grocery store and you're worried about the crowds, try back in an hour or two. The area saw a lot of customers hoarding products earlier on and while some items may still be difficult to keep on shelves most of that should be over by now.

Roalson said the difficulty in getting the message across to everyone is it's a threat they can't see with their own eye. If a driver sees or hears of a traffic accident, they may be more inclined to slow down but the virus is invisible to the eye unless a loved one is infected. And it also forces them to reconsider how they've maintained their own social hygiene such as thorough washing of hands which they may have relaxed since learning the specifics of at a young age.

Ultimately, it comes down to individual responsibility and making sure residents take only what they need and maintain their individual hygiene.

"Collectively our community as a whole has done a good job. Could we do better or should we do better? Absolutely," Roalson said.

He said the community should get beyond the "it couldn't happen to us" mentality and that while the event isn't life-changing it is currently life-altering but that period will pass and people are encouraged to keep practicing safe social distancing and maintain their hygiene.

"That's how you maintain safety and stop the spread together," Roalson said.

"Everyone has to participate," he added.

For more local news, visit The Times at https://www.mywebtimes.com.

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