Cedar Rapids police warn of COVID-19 scams, discuss closure enforcement; city closes more outdoor spots

Sac and Fox trail in Cedar Rapids, November 2019. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

The City of Cedar Rapids is closing additional outdoor facilities to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Last week, the city announced playgrounds and outdoor exercise stations were temporarily closed. As of Thursday, Riverside Skate Park, basketball courts, tennis courts, sand volleyball and baseball fields are also closed.

Signage has been posted at closed facilities, and playgrounds have been taped off. Parks, trails, disc golf and the Gardner Golf Course are still open. Prairie Park Fishery is also open for fishing and walking.

At a Linn County Public Health press conference on Thursday, Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said the closures are meant to address residents’ tendency to gather in groups in parks and athletic fields.

“This is difficult for this time of year,” Pomeranz said about the closures of outdoor facilities. “We know our kids are not at school and sporting activities, outdoor recreation is certainly vital for the entire community, but in particular our youth. … But again, we’re making these steps, taking these measures in order to have a safe community and to limit the exposure.”

Linn County COVID-19 Press Conference, April 2, 2020

Tune in today at 3:30 PM

Posted by Linn County Public Health on Thursday, April 2, 2020

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said he has asked officers to continue patrolling areas that have been closed, including the outdoor facilities and businesses, to make sure people are complying with closures.

Regarding business closures, Jerman shared “officers have found the overwhelming majority — almost 100 percent” have been complying. With the “small number of businesses” that were not complying, Jerman said officers educated the owners to obtain voluntary compliance, instead of using enforcement.

Incidents of noncompliance with park closures or Gov. Kim Reynolds’ orders are handled on a case-by-case basis, he said.

“It is a misdemeanor offense, which can be charged, but again, that is our last resort of taking enforcement action,” Jerman said. “We want to educate and ask for voluntary compliance.”

Jerman also warned Cedar Rapids and Linn County residents of encountering scams during the pandemic. He reminded residents that the government is not asking for bank numbers or other personal information for the stimulus checks Americans will be receiving in the coming weeks through the CARES Act.

Earlier on Thursday, Linn County Public Health was notified of an individual claiming to be a public health employee. The individual tried to get inside a resident’s home by saying they needed to make sure proper “COVID cleaning procedures” were being followed.

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The resident did not allow the person into their home, and the individual was later identified by law enforcement. LCPH is not sending out employees to check on homes and is encouraging residents to call law enforcement if an incident occurs.

The Cedar Rapids Police Department has designed and implemented a continuity of operations plan to “ensure that we have adequate staffing to provide law enforcement services to our community,” Jerman said. Dispatchers have also been asking a series of screening questions so officers can take appropriate precautions prior to arriving at the scene.

The police department is also encouraging people to use their online reporting tool to report crimes that are not in progress.

“Our officers continue to have personal protective equipment and are continuing to respond to calls for service,” Jerman said. “Investigations also are continuing, and we’ve increased police patrols around businesses that have been closed during this pandemic.”

“Where practical, officers may ask you to step outside so they can speak with you outside your home, and these officers will practice social distancing for the health and safety of everyone involved. Obviously, there’s going to be some incidents in which officers have no choice but to come into close contact with victims or suspects and our officers do have the duty and responsibility to preserve law and order no matter what the circumstances are. I’m very proud of the dedication of our officers and their commitment to this community.”