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No one wants to be a killjoy or take away a community event — and Lynette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department falls into the category of not wanting to do that.
However, she is concerned about the Saturday night cruise of Main Street.
“My hope is that we can continue to do cruise night, but if we have another one as I saw this past Saturday we will really, really, talk to law enforcement to get these kind of things shut down. I hate to do that and hate to say that because it does bring community bonding and a chance to get out the house. ... We have to keep public health the focus.”
Her concerns grew significantly after seeing photos of the most recent cruise, a night dedicated to the Newton High School class of 2020 on what would have been prom night if school buildings hadn’t been closed and large gatherings banned by order of the governor to fight the spread of COVID-19.
“There is concern from the public health side,” Redington said. “If you have not already heard, 6 feet is 6 feet, not right next to people.”
She saw photos on social media of groups of people watching the cruise, and photos of dozens of seniors who gathered in a park to take photos.
This spring, state officials have shut down public events, limited the number of people that can be in groups and defined essential businesses as much has shut down.
It was out of this that the cruise night was born — a community activity that can observe social distancing rules.
“It is one of the last things we can all be doing while observing social distancing,” said Beth Usselman, a regular cruiser turned organizer. “It is extremely important. There are so many things we can’t do as a community. ... You can shout out to your friends while you are driving, wave and smile (on Saturday night).”
Usselman founded a Facebook group called “Newton Covid19 Cruising,” created to help organize a weekly cruise that currently boasts more than 500 members. The group encourages social distancing for all gatherings during the cruise — and is doing so again as it promotes a night to honor eighth graders.
Close contact is defined, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more.
“We have conversations with county and local law enforcement all the time. ... We get reports pretty much daily from concerned (residents) that people are not social distancing and groups are getting together. We are responding to that by having law enforcement go out and give friendly reminders.”
During Saturday’s cruise for the class of 2020, groups gathered in parking lots along Main Street to observe cruise participants. It was in those groups that the concerns for social distancing grew.
“My hope is that we do not have a spike in cases after what I saw,” Redington said. “I just hope everyone stays safe. It is frustrating to see after all the announcements we have made.”
Cruise night is still on but it is being monitored.