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Forest Hills Cemetery shut to the general public

Sign saying Forest Hills Cemetery is now closed

The managers of Forest Hills Cemetery closed the scenic grounds to visitors today, saying there were just too many people crowding in for walks and bicycle rides - even as the number of burials is going up due to the increase in Covid-19 deaths.

Staffers locked the cemeteries side gates to and from the surrounding side streets, while the main gate is only open between 2 and 4, and even then only for people going to burials and cemetery staffers and officials.

Some callers to the cemetery report being told the move was in direct response to Mayor Walsh's comments yesterday about his disappointment in the way people weren't staying six feet away from each other outside at some Boston locations.

One staffer said at the main cemetery entrance today that during the current stay-at-home times, the cemetery has seen a lot more visitors - not just people strolling the grounds, but dog walkers, bicyclists and little kids, who were climbing too many trees and monuments.

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Comments

or can you link to another source for this information? It is not yet on the cemetery's website, nor on their Facebook page.

I'm very disappointed that they did not give at least three days' warning before closing, as Mount Auburn did (giving folks a chance to make a last weekend visit on March 28 and 29).

The Forest Hills grounds have always been open to cyclists, unlike at Mount Auburn, where you must lock your bike at the entrance.

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Voting closed 11

And talked to a manager, who first came up to me (well, six feet up to me) and wanted to know why I wanted to take a picture of the sign (as we were talking, a security guard drove up as well, and got out and stood there, although I think it was more that he wanted to talk to the guy, not that he was afraid I was up to no good).

Was alerted to go up there by people either posting in the Forest Hills neighborhood group or sending me messages saying they'd called the number on the sign ...

So for a change, some actual shoe-leather reporting on my part :-).

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Voting closed 120

So you're reporting that a cemetery manager 'came ... six feet up to' you? Hmm, how deep are the dead buried again? That's right - six feet!

I've always respected your reporting so I know that you wouldn't have said 'up' if there wasn't vertical distance involved - ergo, you're hiding the fact that you interviewed some sort of spectral being or living dead.

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I’m a member!

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Shoulda been a bit more careful with more wording given what I was writing about!

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Great that we are keeping company and falling behind with NYC.

DiBlassio has refused to enact what other cities are doing because of policing concerns. So now their city council is pushing forward legislation I believe.

https://twitter.com/berkie1/status/1252245781018480644

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Voting closed 17

I'm Mr bike commuter, so I get the desire for people to have safe bike places. I just don't see the usefulness of having a random street here or there blocked off. I rode down Beacon Street today and noticed the "walking and biking" set-asides on Beacon in-bound approaching Coolidge Corner. (They moved the parking lane out so the former parking spots are now available.) I'm sorry, but that's pretty much useless. I didn't see many folks using Francis Parkman Drive this weekend, but did almost get hit by a car whose GPS didn't know that the road wasn't open to him.

Unless you are a kid, the city is now your bike path. I rode Beacon St from Cleveland Circle and got to St Paul Street (that's AFTER Coolidge Corner) before the first car passed me.

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Was it not barricaded like it should have been?

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No one named a parkway after him.

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Parkman Parkway would lead directly to the Outerbridge Bridge.

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It was two weekends ago. No cars were getting on to that section for sure.

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That's when I saw it blocked off.

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I agree, finding places to bike is not a problem. There are fewer cars out in general, yeah some are speeding but so far I haven't had an issue with biking.

Walking though, I've seen plenty of cases of people stepping into the road, narrow sidewalks without enough room to socially distance, parks closing and the ones open having little space to social distance to the volume of people.

Cities like Oakland are making connected networks of local traffic only (for the resident concern trolls, its open for emergency vehicle access) so its not about a few random roads here and there.

Hell, I saw one tweet I gotta find of a random neighborhood that took it upon themselves to post up a small barrier and signage saying "No through traffic." Opened up the whole block for social distancing.

Again, its not about bikes.

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I had been going for runs through the cemetery because it is one of the few places where I can avoid people and get to franklin park. I stayed away from the newer areas and always wore a mask.

I have tried the arboretum a few times, but the Problem there is that people hang out around the entrances and people (without masks) will actually walk toward you and hog the entire path - which makes it extra challenging if you are running or biking or even just trying to go for a walk.

Now I’m not sure what I can do. I don’t have a treadmill or a stationary bike. I am in an apartment with kids and we don’t really have any other safe outdoor space aside from the sidewalk. Playgrounds are closed. I really wish Walsh would start closing down some streets for people to get physical activity.

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...maybe not a cemetery.

Please think about this. It's not a park. It's not a recreational facility. It's a place where people are buried and where their loved ones come to pay their respects. The fact that "but people have always run/biked/walked their dogs there" doesn't really count for much these days; times have changed.

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..maybe a cemetery?

Please think about this. Times have changed as you said, maybe we need to temporarily rethink the role these spaces have for our societal needs right now.

Its a fairly valid request from someone who just told you have almost no safe options to exercise and social distance, not to mention the mental health impacts.

And in a city where the Mayor has refused to follow the examples of other cities and create safe space to socially distance on roads.

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...is that cemeteries are being used a lot more, as cemeteries.

maybe we need to temporarily rethink the role these spaces have for our societal needs right now.

The role of these spaces is as places to inter the dead. I'm not sure why you think "our societal needs" should trump that, given that they're mostly not even public spaces.

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We can provide recreational space temporarily during a period of time when social distancing will getting exercise and fresh air are vitally needed and we can still inter the dead there.

The role of golf courses, for instance, should change too and its not public space currently.

I guess the real issue is, people don't have enough space and lower in this thread you were pontificating about why people can't just walk down the sidewalks, as if that space isn't already cramped enough, especially for social distancing.

Guess we need to open the roads oh but our Mayor isn't doing that so ok, people are gonna need to get out and will go where they can. Maybe we should plan it a little better.

Better question, what should we do for social distanced exercise and recreational needs if we aren't opening cemeteries or golf courses, are closing parks in some cases, have really narrow sidewalks and roads that aren't open to pedestrians?

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I guess the real issue is, people don't have enough space and lower in this thread you were pontificating

Pontificating? Really?

about why people can't just walk down the sidewalks, as if that space isn't already cramped enough, especially for social distancing.

I see. Do you have data on these cramped sidewalks?

I'm not sealioning, I'm asking. I'm not seeing "cramped" sidewalks.

Better question, what should we do for social distanced exercise and recreational needs if we aren't opening cemeteries or golf courses, are closing parks in some cases, have really narrow sidewalks and roads that aren't open to pedestrians?

Your first go-to should not be a cemetery. A cemetery is not ever there for your "recreational needs", and absolutely not now. But tell me about your needs: what kind of space do you need, how much, located where? There probably is a solution, but you're going to have to consider less-than-perfect solutions.

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As I stated in this very thread:

I agree, finding places to bike is not a problem. There are fewer cars out in general, yeah some are speeding but so far I haven't had an issue with biking.

Walking though, I've seen plenty of cases of people stepping into the road, narrow sidewalks without enough room to socially distance, parks closing and the ones open having little space to social distance to the volume of people.

https://www.universalhub.com/comment/779086#comment-779086

But also in other threads that maybe you didn't see:

https://www.universalhub.com/comment/774645#comment-774645

And this doesn't come from my usual war on cars, this is all about the war on cabin fever and giving people some space to social distance.

https://www.universalhub.com/comment/776795#comment-776795

Required disclaimer that this isn't about bikes, its about providing adequate recreational space for people while maintaining social distancing.

Data? As in examples?

Oh, I don't need to
By lbb on Thu, 04/23/2020 - 12:15pm.
Give it a week and keep your eyes peeled and your mind open. You'll see plenty.

https://www.universalhub.com/comment/779385#comment-779385

So again, what should we do for social distanced exercise and recreational needs if we aren't opening cemeteries or golf courses, are closing parks in some cases, have really narrow sidewalks and roads that aren't open to pedestrians?

What less than perfect options are left?

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I think what people are forgetting, is that cemeteries, such as Forest Hills (1848) and Mt. Auburn (1831), were created in the Victorian Era. They were treated or created as some of the first parks and used as such. Picnics, visiting loved one passed on, etc.

Article in the The Atlantic (2011)

Writeup in Atlas Obscura titled 'Remembering When Americans Picnicked in Cemeteries'

Quote from Atlas Obscura, "Eating in graveyards had, and still has, historical precedent. People picnic among the dead from Guatemala to parts of Greece, and similar traditions involving meals with ancestors are common throughout Asia. But plenty of Americans believed that picnics in local cemeteries were a “gruesome festivity.” This critique, notably from older generations, didn’t stop young adults from meeting up in graveyards. Instead it led to debate over proper conduct."

Yes, Forest Hills is private property, but it is there for the public good. Perhaps they can, like the Arboretum, find a way to staff it to help encourage social distancing, as well as care, consideration, and respect of the cemetery and it's occupants.

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Is that cars now park in the right lane, and that right lane is smooth (for the cars and bikes that were riding on them). Now bikes are force to ride in the parking spaces/gutters, which have lots of potholes, cracks and bumps. Like Gary C said, biking is much better now with 75% of the traffic gone and was probably more efficient before the walk/bike lanes were established.

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Yeah, parking spaces tend to be bumpy places to bike, because each parked car oil leak spot messes up the asphalt.

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This is a really disappointing decision for those of us in the area trying to find quiet, calm, beautiful and uncrowded respite from the stresses of this damnable pandemic. "Hazardous Conditions"? As someone who walks through a few times a week at varying times of day, I can attest that Forest Hills Cemetery is far less crowded, far less frenetic that nearby Arnold Arboretum or Jamaica Pond. Here it's actually easy to maintain social distance. I understand that it's a PRIVATE cemetery, but it exists in a public context, and it ordinarily invites the public in to explore with their free maps to historic graves and sculptures. The public needs spaces like this now more than ever as we all cope with confinement and the anxiety of Covid-19 and economic trauma. Perhaps they might have taken some interim steps short of barring the gates: signs encouraging social distance and waste removal (like the Arboretum and Emerald Necklace have installed); reminders (if they think they're needed) that monuments are not play structures; volunteers or paid security to encourage compliance... I certainly hope they reconsider.

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Too bad people abused this beautiful gem of a cemetery and ruined it for people like yourself. Don't blame the hard-working people who manage and maintain the cemetery and the grounds.

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I am saddened by the closure of Forest Hills today - for all of us at this time.
It is my famly cemetery and I visit regularly and, in recent weeks saw very small numbers
of visitors walking the grounds compared to anywhere in the area. What has the cemetery done to advise the public and where has Mayor Walsh received his information? Today's action seems strange and without accurate advice. Please reconsider. Forest Hills has always been more than a cemetery but a public refuge to celebrate spirit, music, art and what binds us all in humanity - especially needed now.

Ginny Mazur Mendendhall
Jamaica Plain

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They should have closed the cemetery off to cars that aren’t there for a burial. I walked to the cemetery Sunday and there must have been 30 cars parked in the driveway. Usually there is just a couple. Then you have the extremely lazy people who actually drive into the cemetery. These selfish, lazy people who drove there ruined the cemetery for locals who just want to walk around. Im tired of this. Stay in your own damn neighborhood.

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I'm sorry I had to drive into the cemetery to visit my grandparents, parents, brother and cousin. Also while I was there, I must admit that I did walk around and visited graves and monuments and admired the art that was found throughout this wonderful area.

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And drove in, visited a family members grave and then walked around a bit. Then they got upset when they see you walking around, a person on private property, not even from Boston (you might live here but are hated because you are gentrifying it) ruining their peaceful area which they paid hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars for.

I have no issue with people walking around areas which are commonly used for public use, but man, the arrogance and entitlement I see now of people thinking private properties are theirs is amazing. Stay in your own damn neighborhood? How about stay off private property?

(I get the fact that people flocking to areas in cars might upset the balance of a place like this cemetery and its use, and that may have led to this decision to close the cemetery to those from the neighborhood whom usually enjoy it, but I’m also betting it’s all city residents who are driving there as well,)

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Not all neighberhoods have large open spaces for people to walk in.

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Your phrasing is confusing. If the cars were parked in the driveway, they weren't in the cemetery. Or are you saying you saw the cars past the main gates and chapel, in the cemetery proper?

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With Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge closing weeks ago due to people letting their dogs run around off leash, I'm surprised Forest Hills waited this long. These are active cemeteries with loved ones being buried every week, not a playground for cycling or a dog park. Dogs are not allowed in cemeteries. Biking to the cemeteries of course is welcomed, but you're not allowed to bike inside the cemeteries. You have to lock up your bike and most people respect that. Unfortunately too many visitors since the pandemic weren't being respectful of these beautiful burying grounds and ruined it for everyone else who was being respectful.

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In fact, the annual Hub on Wheels bike tour used to go through Forest Hills Cemetery.

Mount Auburn disallows bicycles, but I don't think that is the norm for most other local cemeteries.

About Forest Hills: "While strolling, picnics, bicycling and quiet recreational activities are permitted, please respect the serenity that is so essential to this contemplative environment."

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That's a shame, but thank you for clarifying.

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Forest Hills Cemetery has always allowed dogs on leashes in most but not all parts of the cemetery. It has always allowed bikes.

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is not allowed in Mt. Auburn at any time. Leashed dogs are allowed in Forest Hills. So I don't think Mt. Auburn was closed because of unleashed dogs.

Agree that a minority of people ruin it for everyone else.

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Off leash dogs was part of the tipping point for the closure of Mt. Auburn Cemetery. There's a small group of people who go birding there who were informed by one of the staff who they have gotten to know over the years who let them know. Overcrowding was of course another one of the main issues.

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We've lived on one of the streets abutting Forest Hills Cemetery for over a decade and has always enjoyed walking our dog on their premises. There's a placard at every entrance that states as much as long as owners pick up after their dogs and are always leashed. Most people are very respectful of the grounds, but there's certainly those few that can damper it for the rest of us. Just unfortunate the grounds are closed (beautiful time of year to visit with all the trees and flowers blooming) but completely understand given the current situation.

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Where did you hear that the Mt. Auburn closure was due to off-leash dogs?

Are you the same anon who commented this on the Mt Auburn post, and didn't answer where you heard it?

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I drove the length of Route 117 out to Lancaster. Found a nice walk in the woods in Bolton that had an old quarry in it, and found a brewery in Lancaster, where I picked up some suds, turned around, and came home.

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If you don't, your range is limited to where you can walk, where you can bike (if you have one and are physically fit enough to ride it a long distance), or where you can take public transit to (not really recommended right now)

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I have picked up Ron + Ronbike to go to an event in, say, Hull before, but we aren't doing that now.

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I have been twice in the last 3 weeks. It is an absolute falsehood that there were too many ppl and that social distancing was not being practiced. A lie.

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... after it rather abruptly killed off the long-running Lantern Festival -- after having previously canceled all other cultural events (and firing all the staff who worked on these).

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It's been how it always is: basically desolate. I've run there often specifically for this reason, you rarely ever see another person.

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Oh wow. Now that I know someone has been there twice in three weeks and it wasn’t crowded at those two specific times, I totally believe that there is no reason to close down a private place that has been overrun by people not following suggested guidelines. For sure must be an absolute falsehood.

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You can probably go in at 11am on a weekday and it is fine ... but weekends have turned into the Clusterflock of Hell in terms of illegally parked cars, crowds, people not moving aside on trails, and overall damage to the facilities.

So, yeah, I can go for a walk during the day before 3pam and it isn't an issue. On weekends I have started seeing people cruising the neighborhood for parking - and those are the ones who bother to look for legal parking. Sheepfold and its Special Assholes With Canines Club had to be closed due to rampant illegal parking, dog waste, and people who think social distancing means not sniffing one another's rears.

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That has become a problem for sure. Before Covid19 benches were often hard to come by , so if you were old or had other mobility issues you had to be careful about where you would walk. Now I see they are wrapping up the benches in tape too.

So many suggestions I see are assuming that everyone is 25, in good shape, has a bike and all the time in the world with no kids at home.

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Not everyone has a car.

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I will also add that the only affront to dignity that I witnessed was the newly arrived pretty-princess Disney angel sculpture that these cretins have installed at the main entrance. The manager of a Walmart garden center would find it too embarrassing for the parking lot.

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I guess I'm really out of touch but I didn't realize that CEMETERIES were such hububs of activity such as running, biking, dog walking, festivals, etc that it causes people to be so seriously bummed out when they are closed to the public.

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Forest Hills Cemetery is much bigger and more scenic than almost every park in Boston. Unfortunately people driving there ruined it for the locals who live close and regularly enjoy it.

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From the article:

" the cemetery has seen a lot more visitors - not just people strolling the grounds, but dog walkers, bicyclists and little kids, who were climbing too many trees and monuments."

The cemetery staffer interviewed cites too many people visiting of all types and doesn't mention cars at all.

It's honestly weird how often you post like a Trump who's really into biking. Fact free and full of vitriol and agenda.

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Of Boston parks, the only one of similar size to Forest Hills Cemetery is Franklin Park.

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ever since it opened. Forest Hills has a similar design and opened just a few years later. Both have a large number of famous people buried inside, and are lushly planted places of great beauty.

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if all cemetaries close to the public. On of my parents was buried in a Boston cemetary in February and my other parent, who visits everyday, has commented on the increasing number of walkers in the cemetary over the last few weeks.

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The Jewish cemeteries in West Roxbury (Baker St., Centre St. and Grove St.) all closed a few weeks ago.

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Mount Auburn still allows such visits between 4 and 6 pm daily.

I wish Forest Hills would issue an official statement or press release.

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even as the number of burials is going up due to the increase in Covid-19 deaths.

Has the state announced an increase in total deaths or issued any year-to-date death statistics through this week in 2020 compared to this week in prior years? Are deaths up or down? I think it's a fair question six weeks into the lockdown.

There are exceptions, but I think we can all agree that it's mainly the very elderly with pre-existing conditions that die from this. Statistically and by the natural order of things, some of those would have died in spring 2020 regardless. Accidental deaths and deaths from complications of surgery have been nearly eliminated. While I have been told suicides are up sharply, have total deaths truly increased or just "burials" at an older cememtery. Forest Hills pre-arrangement program is popular with seniors who may have picked their final resting place years ago at discount prices.

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I was just reading yesterday about how weekly deaths in the United Kingdom hit a 20 year high, with the number of deaths being about 40% higher than normal.

So, with that data point, one can see there has been more dying going around. When Massachusetts can show the data is another story, but it could be an interesting one.

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The leading cause of death in the country is currently COVID-19, and the deaths continue to mount. https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-leading-cause-of-death.html

But yeah, keep blabbing without spending 2 minutes bothering to actually check if your talking points are true. And yes, the majority of deaths are concentrated among older people, so what? Are you going to volunteer to die needlessly, Boomer, so we can play basketball?

Usually, your mindless Pro-Trump sycophancy is relatively harmless in the short term, but idiot science-deniers like you are currently in the street endangering their friends, family, and themselves. You've become an acolyte of a death cult, with people like yourself as the prime sacrifice.

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It isn't a "lockdown", you ninny. No one is stopping you from leaving your house.
Look at what they're doing in Peru, for example: THAT'S a lockdown. What a fragile whiner you are.

There are exceptions, but I think we can all agree that it's mainly the very elderly with pre-existing conditions that die from this. Statistically and by the natural order of things, some of those would have died in spring 2020 regardless.

No, only those unacquainted with the facts would agree with that. The distribution of cases by age cohort is a lot more even than you'd like to believe, Fishy. And as far as deaths compared to a year ago, don't have that data, but DPH reports that in 2017 Massachusetts averaged 161 deaths per day from all causes. Yesterday, there were 152 deaths from Covid-19 alone.

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...there's this.

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Do you really believe that it is not the elderly who are overwhelming affected by this? The average age of death in Massachusetts is 81, 63% of deaths are age 80 or older, and the death rate for people 49 or younger is 2 in 100,000. You should really look at the data closer before calling people "unacquainted with the facts."

https://www.boston.com/news/coronavirus/2020/04/20/massachusetts-coronav...

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CORONA VIRUS (COVID-19) *BULLETIN* – On Forest Hills Closure: See Our President’s Letter

The cemetery is open from 2 to 4 pm for people to visit the gravesites of their loved ones.

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I really don't understand what is so hard about "Stay Home"?! Walk around your own neighborhood if you need some fresh air. Why is everyone so bent out of shape that they can't GO to a park? No one is supposed to be going anywhere if they don't have to, such as to work or to get groceries. This will not last forever. Geez, people.

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and you need exercise, you will seek out one somewhere else. And sometimes the nearest or least crowded "park" is the garden cemetery.

Exercise is essential for both physical and mental health.

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I get it that parks are more pleasant, but not being located adjacent to a park has never meant that you have no way to get exercise.

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Exactly. Take a walk on your street and the streets around it. It's not hard.

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