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Title: Urban Park Usage During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Urban parks and green spaces provide a wide range of ecosystem services, including social interaction and stress reduction. When COVID-19 closed schools and businesses and restricted social gatherings, parks became one of the few places that urban residents were permitted to visit outside their homes. With a focus on Philadelphia, PA and New York City, NY, this paper presents a snapshot of the park usage during the early phases of the pandemic. Forty-three Civic Scientists were employed by the research team to observe usage in 22 different parks selected to represent low and high social vulnerability, and low, medium, and high population density. Despite speculation that parks could contribute to the spread of COVID-19, no strong correlation was found between the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in adjacent zip codes and the number of park users. High social vulnerability neighborhoods were associated with a significantly higher number of COVID-19 cases ([Formula: see text]). In addition, no significant difference in the number of park users was detected between parks in high and low vulnerability neighborhoods. The number of park users did significantly increase with population density in both cities ([Formula: see text]), though usage varied greatly by park. Males were more frequently observed than females in parks in both high vulnerability and high-density neighborhoods. Although high vulnerability neighborhoods reported higher COVID-19 cases, residents of Philadelphia and New York City appear to have been undeterred from visiting parks during this phase of the pandemic. This snapshot study provides no evidence to support closing parks during the pandemic. To the contrary, people continued to visit parks throughout the study, underscoring their evident value as respite for urban residents during the early phases of the pandemic.  more » « less
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Journal of Extreme Events
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National Science Foundation
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