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How beaches are preparing for Memorial Day during the pandemic

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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.

Confirmed Cases: 4335

Reported Deaths: 157
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah118161
Marion98126
Washington74718
Clackamas31711
Deschutes1270
Umatilla1213
Linn1189
Polk10012
Lane773
Yamhill707
Jackson670
Benton565
Clatsop450
Jefferson440
Klamath440
Malheur320
Coos310
Douglas270
Wasco261
Josephine241
Hood River220
Lincoln170
Columbia160
Morrow120
Curry70
Union60
Tillamook60
Crook60
Wallowa20
Lake20
Sherman10
Harney10
Grant10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 117215

Reported Deaths: 4305
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles572192448
Riverside8155342
San Diego7554269
Orange6574150
San Bernardino5501208
Alameda351597
Santa Clara2819143
San Francisco258743
Kern237639
San Mateo218884
Tulare200489
Fresno188236
Imperial179829
Santa Barbara166912
Contra Costa150637
Sacramento143958
Ventura116434
Kings11375
San Joaquin98235
Stanislaus75029
Monterey57110
Sonoma5664
Solano54622
Marin50115
Merced3017
San Luis Obispo2781
Placer2289
Santa Cruz2172
Yolo21324
Madera1143
Napa1133
Humboldt1023
El Dorado960
San Benito882
Butte511
Sutter462
Del Norte460
Nevada421
Shasta394
Mono371
Mendocino300
Yuba301
Lake260
Inyo201
Glenn170
Mariposa161
Calaveras150
Amador100
Siskiyou80
Colusa70
Lassen50
Tehama51
Plumas40
Tuolumne40
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
Medford
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