Social distancing in Madison Square. (Photo: Janine and Jim Eden via Wiki Commons)

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rises to more than 47,439 in New York City, people are taking social distancing more seriously. City data shows that in the past three days in Manhattan, a total of 289 complaints regarding social distancing violations were made via 311, with police responding to all of the calls and taking action in one third of the cases.

Most complaints were concentrated in the Upper East and West sides, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side. Almost a third of the alleged incidents took place at stores or commercial spaces, with the rest occurring— in order of frequency— in residential buildings, on the street or sidewalk, and in parks and playgrounds. Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York was shutting down its playgrounds, as people continued to crowd while engaging in activities such as basketball. Only 9 of the Manhattan social distancing complaints made to 311 involved activity at parks and playgrounds, according to NYC Open Data.

Among the businesses whose addresses were listed in complaint records are a Target and Kentucky Fried Chicken on East 14th Street in the East Village. (Calls to the businesses yielded no further information.) A Planned Parenthood of Greater New York clinic on Bleecker Street was also the scene of a complaint, but a person who answered the phone there could offer no details.

The NYPD “took action” on 88 of the 289 complaints, according to records that do not elaborate on the nature of the action. An officer who answered the phone at the 9th Precinct, in the East Village, said that police actions vary depending on the situation. The police treat social distancing complaints “as a priority,” she said. “We take it very seriously. Even for ourselves as officers, being too close to one another is a very serious thing.”

In the remaining 201 cases, the data shows that either the police found no evidence, the people responsible for the condition had gone, or no action was necessary.

On March 20, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that all of the state’s workforce stay home except for essential services. New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, issued a separate executive order on March 25, banning non-essential gatherings of any size and ordering everyone to work from home if possible.

New Yorkers can now file social distancing complaints to the City via the 311 portal if they observe overcrowding at a location, noncompliance with restrictions at an essential business, or operation of a non-essential business. They are only encouraged to call 911 to report an emergency situation or condition that might cause danger to life or personal property. 

The NYPD’s daily coronavirus report shows that between 8am of March 30 and March 31, the police visited over 13,000 supermarkets, bars, restaurants, salons, and public spaces to ensure that businesses and individuals are observing social distancing restrictions. Over 70% of them were closed. No arrests or summonses were issued during the visits.

Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio vowed on Monday, March 30 to enforce social distancing rules on subways. The police will now split up the crowds and move people into different cars or ask them to wait for the next train if they see overcrowding. He added that people who ignore social distancing rules will now be fined as high as $500.