BRADENTON, Fla. - After a lengthy discussion Tuesday afternoon, Manatee County commissioners voted unanimously to reopen Coquina and Manatee beaches, starting at 10 a.m. Monday.
Seven county commissioners voted to reopen county-owned beaches. County commissioners say you still need to follow social distancing.
“We think it’s something our citizens, again, will be so excited about, being able to participate there, that they will follow the guidelines,” offered county administrator Cheri Coryea. “We will have posted signs; we are thinking that we will be forced to do that soon no matter what, based on the surrounding counties and the governor’s orders.”
But on Holmes Beach, apprehension from city leaders remains. Holmes Beach Police Chief William Tokajer disagrees with the county’s decision.
"It's irresponsible to open up our beaches and large gathering places when the numbers continue to rise, all the medical people say no it's too soon. We need to listen to the medical people and not the people who want to complain," Tokajer told FOX 13 News.
COVID-19 cases in Manatee County continue to go up. Tuesday, four additional deaths were reported with 30 new cases, totaling 563 for the county. More than 40% of those cases are in nursing homes.
Chief Tokajer remains concerned for residents of Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, and Anna Maria Island.
"A good portion of our residents are elderly and we don't want to bring people out here that could be asymptomatic and not even know it and have them come frequent our shopping centers, the Publix, go to the beach and possibly infect our residents that we do have here," the chief said.
When you get to the beach parking lots, you can only park for 2 hours. While county-owned beach parking lots will open, parking on Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach will continue to be limited.
"We will continue to keep our streets, right of ways and access as to no open. It will continue until we feel it is safe to open back up. It will be a tow-away zone throughout the city," Tokajer said.
The specifics on Manatee beaches opening haven't been 100% laid out by the county. The county is expected to release that what will or will not be allowed at the beaches.
Manatee beaches have been closed since March 20 to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The reopening order takes effect Monday, May 4 at 10 a.m. Beaches will close at 9 p.m.