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RACINE, WI – Racine Police Chief Art Howell issued a plea to residents asking them to observe social distancing practices after breaking up large house parties.

Racine Police responded to a large house party, which prompted them to issue a plea for residents to adhere to social distancing recommendations. SUBMITTED PHOTO

In the hope of restricting the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Howell also asked residents to report incidents of large gatherings.

“Last weekend, Racine Police Department officers were called upon to respond to a residential disturbance where a large crowd was assembled. Upon arrival, officers encountered a large group of individuals attending a party in the area,” Howell said.

During the incident last weekend, the crowd disbursed and no citations were issued. Howell wants to keep these large gatherings from happening. And if they do, citations will be issued, he said.

Howell issued a reminder to the public; large gatherings put people, their extended families, the neighborhood, and responding officers at risk.

As part of the Racine Forward plan, city officials lifted several restrictions on businesses. However, the City of Racine Public Health Department still recommends maintaining physical distancing and wearing cloth face coverings.

“As we approach the Memorial Day weekend, where we honor those who served our nation in the armed forces, many families will gather to fellowship and celebrate this holiday. Memorial Day also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, increasing the number of gatherings throughout the community,” Howell wrote in a press release. “Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, social gatherings occurring over the holiday weekend and beyond should be conducted in a safe, sound and socially responsible manner as we strive to promote order and maintain public safety.”

On Friday, city officials reported 862 confirmed COVID-19 cases, an increase of 208 cases — or a 32 percent — compared to May 15.

Testing has increased in Racine County, but the overall percentage of positive cases has been about 15 percent. In comparison, 201,483 people have been tested for COVID-19. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, a total of 15,277 people — or 7.6 percent — have tested positive for the virus.

READ MORE: 5 things you should know about testing.

Howell calls on community to report people not complying with social distancing

The virus has started to impact the law enforcement community.

Across the United States, 39 members of law enforcement and the corrections community have died in the line of duty after being exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

To prevent that from happening here, Howell asked the community to take photos or videos of large gatherings — like what is photographed — and upload them to the Crimestoppers of Racine County P3 app.

“As we work together as a community to reopen local businesses, church organizations, and other facilities under the Forward Racine plan, we ask for your support in practicing respiratory etiquette, social distancing, and overall social responsibility. In so doing, we will maintain public safety through flattening the curve and reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.