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How beaches are preparing for Memorial Day during the pandemic

Memorial Day marks the symbolic start of summer with its barbecues, outdoor gatherings with friends and trips to the beach.But this weekend, with the...

Posted: May 22, 2020 3:38 AM

Memorial Day marks the symbolic start of summer with its barbecues, outdoor gatherings with friends and trips to the beach.

But this weekend, with the novel coronavirus still spreading throughout the United States, most beaches have issued social distancing restrictions and capacity limits, a sort of middle ground to allow people to venture out while still trying to mitigate the virus's spread.

The risk is not about the beach itself but about the gatherings, health experts say.

"Going to an uncrowded beach with your social cohort or 'quaranteam' can be a safe and fun experience," Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious diseases specialist at Columbia University, said in an email last month. "The challenge is limiting the number of people on the beach so social distancing can be done."

Beach-adjacent locations like picnic areas, public bathrooms, volleyball courts, retail shops, restaurants, bars and public transportation will have more people and so could pose risks. Workers in those locations for hours on end could be at higher risk, too.

On an individual level, health experts have recommended washing your hands with soap, staying at least 6 feet from others, wearing a mask, and avoiding enclosed spaces for a prolonged time. On a community level, experts have said that testing, contact tracing, sufficient hospital bed space, and low hospitalization rates all help limit the consequences of any positive cases.

Here's what some of the most popular beaches in New York, New Jersey, Florida and California are doing this Memorial Day weekend.

Capacity limits and mask-wearing

Several coastal states and beach communities plan to open beaches while limiting the number of people who can go.

In a joint announcement, the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware announced that public and private beaches will open Friday with certain restrictions

"A trip to the beach is a treasured past time for New Jerseyans on Memorial Day weekend just as it is for residents in our neighboring states," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. "By aligning our social distancing policies for beaches, we can bring some semblance of a 'new normal' to our region ahead of the first weekend of the summer season."

Murphy said that state beaches must limit the number of visitors allowed there while maintaining 6-feet social distancing. The restrictions will be enforced except for family groups, household caretakers or couples.

Shower pavilions, changing areas and restrooms will also reopen at beaches. But organized contact sports, events and beachfront summer special events like concerts, festivals and fireworks will be prohibited. Restaurants must continue to offer take-out and delivery options only, while amusement parks, playgrounds and visitor centers will remain closed.

Masks, Murphy said, are recommended but not required.

"We are not ordering it but we highly recommend that you wear a face covering, particularly when social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as while waiting in line for a slice of boardwalk pizza," he said.

New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, will have slightly stricter rules. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that masks will be required when not able to social distance, gathering areas like picnic benches will be closed, and there will be no concessions. Beaches will be limited to 50% capacity, a number that he said could be reached by 10 or 11 a.m. on Monday.

In New York City, beaches will be closed for swimming and there will be no lifeguards on duty, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Still, he said people will be allowed to walk on the beach -- but the beaches could be fenced off if social distancing isn't followed.

Beaches in neighboring communities, including Long Island, have expressed concern that city residents will leave the city and venture to one of the open beaches.

"My advice to people is to keep it simple, keep it local, less is more," de Blasio said Thursday.

Some Florida beaches are still closed

Most Florida beaches are open, but beaches in Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade County, two of the hardest hit areas in the state, will remain closed. In much of the rest of the state, beaches are open with social distancing restrictions in place.

While Fort Lauderdale beaches are closed, lifeguards are still working in case of emergencies and as beach bouncers, CNN affiliate WPLG reported last month.

"We do help the police department enforce the beach closure," said Chief Alex O'Connor of Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue. "People do try to sneak on, they are getting stir crazy. It's been a month since the beach has been closed so people want to get out here."

In Jacksonville Beach, restaurants saw large crowds when they reopened at a lower capacity earlier this month, CNN affiliate WJXT reported.

Similarly, in California, most beaches are open but with some restrictions in place.

For example, beaches in Los Angeles County are open for active use like walking, running or swimming, but sunbathing, picnicking and organized sports are not allowed. In addition, people will have to stay more than 6 feet from other groups, and face coverings must be worn when out of the water and around others.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 207106

Reported Deaths: 2757
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah40396614
Washington26812249
Marion23444323
Clackamas18953235
Lane13924164
Jackson11549146
Deschutes1002782
Umatilla860987
Linn562281
Yamhill478679
Klamath477878
Polk400556
Douglas389583
Malheur362063
Josephine361772
Benton326922
Jefferson237139
Coos216737
Columbia192329
Union150124
Wasco144530
Lincoln143421
Crook129223
Hood River121733
Morrow115516
Clatsop10609
Baker102315
Curry72011
Tillamook6604
Grant5517
Lake4688
Harney4339
Wallowa1945
Gilliam811
Sherman701
Wheeler351
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3810808

Reported Deaths: 63373
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles124790924459
Riverside3017994627
San Bernardino2993204850
San Diego2818863771
Orange2731055113
Santa Clara1201922190
Kern1107991404
Sacramento1078721737
Fresno1029711724
Alameda897561277
Ventura816611031
San Joaquin748081440
Contra Costa70770813
Stanislaus635351070
Tulare49802849
Monterey43842432
San Mateo42685581
San Francisco37275556
Santa Barbara34621455
Solano33762266
Merced32315479
Sonoma30957317
Imperial28855741
Placer23604300
Kings23202247
San Luis Obispo21448261
Madera16647245
Santa Cruz16246208
Marin14208230
Yolo14165212
Butte12668195
Shasta12630233
El Dorado10401116
Napa1002880
Sutter9666113
Yuba651251
San Benito610963
Lassen579925
Tehama573563
Nevada493175
Humboldt450849
Mendocino434050
Tuolumne421671
Amador374247
Lake356345
Glenn243327
Siskiyou239837
Colusa228818
Calaveras220856
Del Norte14588
Inyo143438
Mono12984
Plumas7376
Modoc5635
Mariposa4657
Trinity4236
Sierra1170
Alpine890
Unassigned320
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