After nearly two months of imposed isolation, and with temperatures finally swelling into the 70s, the past weekend seemed to make official what most of us have long known:
Quarantine fatigue has set in — at least among some of us.
The warm weekend weather drew crowds around Boston, and those crowds quickly drew ire. Residents — apparently frustrated with neighbors and visitors not following social distancing guidelines or wearing masks in public — flooded the BOS:311 system with complaints and calls for stricter enforcement of the recommendations aimed at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Lots of people sitting on benches near others, sunbathing and breaking social distancing rules at constitution beach,” one person wrote in a complaint lodged Sunday, when temperatures reached the mid-70s. “Please block off benches to remind people they shouldn’t be socializing at this time.”
Frustrations with those who have declined to practice proper social distancing measures have existed, in some form, since the measures were first implemented back in March, as some so-called social-distancing vigilantes have sought to ensure public safety by reminding neighbors themselves.
But nearly two months into a statewide shutdown, those frustrations seem to be bubbling over as spring’s arrival has propelled countless residents from their homes and toward the city’s parks and beaches.
South Boston, for instance, which emerged as a target of national scorn when photos of young people packing bars went viral over Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, has continued to serve as a hot spot for various forms of knuckleheadism.
The neighborhood, filled with young professionals drawn to the area’s plethora of trendy bars and restaurants, was the site of a number of alleged offenses over the weekend, from packed roof parties to public drinking.
“Yuppie privilege is overriding the mayors social distancing rule,” read a complaint filed to Boston’s 311 system. “Close the beaches and start arresting for public solo cup booze drinking. Yuppies walking around all day with cups full of alcohol being sloppy.”
“All day open air Frat Party,” read another. “Did city issue a permit to use public park for full day of drinking, playing games, letting dogs run off leash, no social distancing or face coverings on most, obstructing walkway, etc? This has gone on for several hours but no sight of any patrols.”
Dr. Ellie Murray, an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, said she can understand the eagerness of residents to emerge from their homes after a lengthy winter — particularly one that was followed by two months of isolation.
But while she maintained that getting outside is important, both from a physical and mental health standpoint, she said creative solutions must be devised to help residents follow social distancing guidelines, which will likely need to be in place for months.
“What makes it really challenging for people is when the message that’s coming is, ‘Oh, it’ll be another week, another two weeks,’" she said. "I think the messaging that people need to hear is, ‘Whatever happens with your job in the coming months, the [social distancing measures are] going to need to stay in place for the whole summer, if not the fall.’”
The frustration, meanwhile, has cut both ways.
Regular protests have begun outside the State House, where hundreds gathered Monday to call on Governor Charlie Baker to reopen the economy. And among the complaints from online vigilantes over the weekend was an outlier: someone who was apparently fed up with people sending in so many grievances.
“Numerous deranged individuals with cellphones snitching on everyone,” the person wrote in their own report.
For evidence of the frayed nerves, look no further than the case of the 43-year-old father from Cambridge, who, while out for a walk with his young children last month, allegedly pulled a pocket knife on a jogger and ordered him to cross the street, in an apparent effort to enforce social distancing recommendations.
Boston Police Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a department spokesman, said there were no written reports for any large parties over the weekend. He said police have been advising people to wear face masks, practice social distancing, and not congregate in large crowds, in an effort to slow the spread of this virus. A statewide order requiring face coverings takes effect on Wednesday.
“If they do see something like a soccer game or something like that, they are utilizing speakers on cruisers to disperse crowds," he said. "Whether we get a 911 call or not, they are out there doing that.”
State Police spokesman David Procopio said in an e-mail that the department had a “highly-visible presence at all state parks, beaches and reservations this past weekend, including the South Boston beaches."
In Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh seemed to sense the potential for trouble entering a weekend of enticing weather, reminding residents and visitors last Friday to wear masks when in public and practice social distancing.
“We are expected to see beautiful weather,” he said at the time. “What I don’t want to have to report at my next press conference on Monday [is] that people weren’t listening to us.”
But there he was Monday afternoon, back at the lectern, addressing some of the reports from over the weekend.
“Quite honestly, I think that there’s still too many people not wearing masks,” Walsh said, making a point to thank those that adhered to social distancing guidelines. “And there’s a lot of people out walking.”
“As the weather gets nicer, it’s going to really come down to individuals.”