RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced he would allow public beaches in Virginia Beach to reopen with restrictions in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Previously, beaches could only be used for exercise and fishing amid the pandemic. Come Friday, May 22, the governor is authorizing sunbathing, swimming and surfing.
“We all are one day closer to this terrible pandemic being behind us,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer at Monday’s press conference.
For now, Northam is only allowing Virginia Beach to expand recreational activities on its coastline. He’s encouraging other waterfront communities to use Virginia Beach’s rules as a model for how to reopen safely.
Beachgoers will be asked to keep their distance and avoid gatherings of more than 10. Group sports, alcohol consumption, speakers, tents and umbrella groupings won’t be allowed. Parking will be capped at 50 percent capacity and high-traffic areas will be sanitized regularly.
Northam says all of these rules will be enforced by beach ambassadors.
“If people swarm these beaches and ignore social distancing rules or the regulations the city has put into place I will not hesitate to reinstate ‘Phase One’ restrictions or even close the beach outright if necessary,” Northam said.
Phase One has already started in most of the state, with the exception of Northern Virginia, the city of Richmond and Accomack County on the Eastern Shore. Northam said the first weekend of reopening in Virginia was successful.
“By in large most Virginians continue to do the right thing and for that I say thank you,” Northam said.
Richmond and Northern Virginia will enter this phase no sooner than May 29. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney asked Northam for the delay because the percent of positive coronavirus cases was still increasing.
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