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Kids gathering against the coronavirus rules could be bringing the illness home

Youth playing basketball
John Palminteri/KEYT
Young people playing basketball at a time when all ages are being asked to stay home as part of a coronavirus protection plan, except essential services, could be a risk to their families.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A week into the coronavirus crisis, seeing social distancing ignored by a large group of kids Tuesday was not what medical and government officials expected.

The children were playing basketball on the Franklin Elementary school campus on three courts.

After seeing video, First District City Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez said it was heartbreaking to see. "It is clear that we are not taking it seriously, the social distancing," Gutierrez said.

She moved quickly and made calls.

"I did speak with the principal here at Franklin and she did place an order for the school district to take the basketball nets down and also to have the soccer goal put away," said Gutierrez.

The message about the coronavirus may not be getting to parents and families as urgently as it needs to be.

Some are not keeping up with the daily news updates, warnings or guidelines.

They may also be intentionally ignoring those orders if they don't feel they are at risk.

"Children and youth in that age range are not the ones getting sick but they can be the ones that are the transmitters of this virus. And a lot of the families here have abuelitos, grandparents, that live with them at home and they can get sick. So we really have to be responsible," said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez has an alert going out to parents and community leaders to keep the kids from gathering, as hard as it may be, on what would be their spring break. But the issue has gone beyond the playgrounds.

Tuesday afternoon when the city council was talking about the coronavirus and the issues related to it, there was violence on Mason street.

A stabbing occurred and the male victim made it to Milpas Street and was rushed to Cottage Hospital.

"We're kind of in crisis mode but unfortunately the youth that do not have that guidance at home in the normal setting, they don't want to stay home, so they are out and about. It is heartbreaking to see the youth violence going on," she said. "We still have a lot of work and we need to be in the neighborhoods supporting the resources that are already there. The organizations and key people in each neighborhood that have been working with children and youth and stop reinventing the wheel."

During our interview, not far away at another school, more kids there were coming together playing basketball on the courts.

Messages are going out in English and Spanish and also specially made videos to raise the alert level for all ages.

"I realize in my video there was a lot of views so people are definitely watching TV on their phones a lot. I think that is the best way right now to stay safe," said Gutierrez.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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