Bostonians seek sunshine in the time of coronavirus

Some venture outdoors after massive school closures, ban on large gatherings

People walked, ran, and scooted along Memorial Drive in Cambridge on Saturday afternoon. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

No one said you couldn’t go outside.

While the coronavirus outbreak has delivered a somber coda to a mild winter in the Boston area, abundant sunshine and temperatures nearing the 50s on Saturday drew residents outside for a reprieve from the isolation unfolding across the region.

“You get stir crazy inside,” said Emilia Shin, of Westwood, who brought her three children to the Tadpole Playground on Boston Common. “It’s hard. I don’t want to have them watch video after video after video. The nice fresh air will do them good.”

On Friday, Governor Charlie Baker banned gatherings of more than 250 people and scores of public schools announced plans to close for several weeks, triggering a child-care scramble for thousands of families.

The Tadpole Playground with its slides, climbing structures, and suspensions bridges is normally crowded on the weekends, but not so this Saturday.

“Normally there would be a lot of people in here,” said Gerardo Sanchez of Everett, who sat on the edge of the playground with Raquel Amaya and watched their two children play. “It’s kind of weird. There’s almost nobody here.”

The couple said their children’s schools have closed and assignments are being delivered by e-mail. Sanchez works at Legal Sea Foods and Amaya works at Logan International Airport. Both have seen their hours reduced, Sanchez said.

On the Tremont Street side of the Common, James Van Looy used pink, orange, and yellow chalk to draw a large labyrinth on a pathway.

The labyrinth, which Van Looy has been drawing in chalk for six to seven years, “helps people to understand that we live in an all-one-thing world.”

“Until we start to actually behave with solidarity and unity with each other, it will be impossible for us to deal with our problems,” he said.

The picturesque Charles River Esplanade drew runners and dog walkers Saturday, but the park’s benches and tables were mostly abandoned.

Eliza Noddin, 30, who lives in the North End, said she was visiting the Esplanade to escape isolation at home.

“It’s why we wanted to come here,” she said. “We have a tiny apartment.”

At Stop & Shop at South Bay in Dorchester, a hand-sanitizing station greeted customers at the entrance. Inside the store, supplies of bottled water, bleach, and toilet paper had dwindled and the 1986 Howard Jones’ song, “No One Is to Blame” played on the sound system.

People did their shopping at Stop & Shop in South Bay on Saturday. Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Boyd Robinson, 61, a MBTA employee from Dorchester, stood behind an empty cart in front of bare shelves. He likened the scene to an apocalyptic film.

“Is this it? Is this what’s going to do it? That’s what it looks like to a lot of people," he said.

Robinson’s grocery list included toilet paper, laundry detergent, cold cuts, paper towels, disinfectant, and matches.

“I figure I just come in and do my business, keep my distance from people. If I see anybody, I’ll give them an elbow bump,” he said. “We got to protect ourselves.”

Alina Lopez-Thomas was shopping on behalf of two customers who placed orders through the instacart delivery service.

“There’s nothing here that they’re asking for,” she said, wearing blue rubber gloves.

“Everybody is touching everything so it’s just a precautionary measure for not just myself but other people as well," she said.

Martin Castillo and his wife, Claudia, filled their cart with bottled juices, water, dog food, vegetables and other items. He said they planned to also go to BJ’s Wholesale Club for bleach and meat.

“Every day new information happens. That makes it confusing for everyone,” said Castillo, who works in the mail room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We know what the regular flu is and how to deal with it. This new virus is making it more difficult.”

On Newbury Street, quiet fell over the chic shopping district.

“It doesn’t look like this normally,” said Rick Walker, 50, as he pointed to any empty sidewalk outside his eponymous clothing store.

Musician Matthew Belliveau did not have much of an audience while playing his guitar near Faneuil Hall Marketplace on Saturday morning. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The shops at the Prudential Center also were mostly empty Saturday morning with retailers like L’Occitane and Ann Taylor operating on reduced hours because of the virus.

“COME IN,” read a sign outside the clothing store Bonobos.“WE HAVE HAND SANITIZER.”

One employee in the shopping center said she hadn’t many encountered customers.

“I’ve pretty much only seen people who I know work in the Prudential Center,” said Abigail Palmer, a barista at Caffè Vergnano in Eataly. “On another day it [the line] would be going out the door. You wouldn’t even have time to talk to me right now.”

Luis Rivera, 26, a tourist from Chihuahua, Mexico, said he visited the mall to get out of his hotel room. He said he had tried to call off his trip to Boston in advance.

“We have a reservation for two weeks,” Rivera said. “But we were not able to cancel.”

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