NAPLES, Fla. - Visitors to beaches across the Bay Area appeared to be doing it right this weekend, as they hit the sand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The turnover is so frequent that they don’t have time to have large groups congregating for an extended amount of time," said Jeff Bowman, the chief code enforcement officer in Manatee County.
He said there didn't seem to be a large rush to the county's beaches over Mother's Day weekend. Bowman said the county's two-hour parking limit seemed to work well and visitors were social distancing.
In Naples, however, images of crowds drew criticism online. Visitors appeared to ignore social distancing rules and city officials shut down beaches.
"I think everybody is just excited to get back on the beach and they’re compiling with whatever they can so that they’re not going to push the envelope," said Manatee County search patrol division chief Joe Westerman.
In Pinellas County, officials partially credited a new website that showed real-time updates on how busy areas of beach were and whether parking areas were at capacity.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Pinellas County leaders will continue to track COVID-19 positive cases to see if and when restrictions can be relaxed.
"We went into this that we want to guide people. We want to get them to the right place and help them be able to manage their time on the beach so they can enjoy it and safely comply with the order," said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. "We want to make sure in that interim period we are evaluating this that we don’t have a problem and that’s the reason for the presence and why we are doing this."
Meanwhile, Lido Beach in Sarasota remains closed.
"There's a gating criteria to opening up our beaches. Part of that criteria is that you have robust testing," said Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch.
She said testing numbers have increased in Sarasota after the state opened a large-scale testing site there.
Numbers from one week's worth of tests are in. Sarasota City Commissioners will look at that data on Tuesday night and decide when to reopen beaches.
"You don’t want your community to lose confidence if your ability to take care of them," said Mayor Ahearn-Koch.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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