Governors and other elected officials send out mixed messages this memorial day weekend as people went on beaches despite the ongoing coronavirus health crisis.
Thousands of Americans from the Jersey shore to Southern California hit the sand and surfed over the holiday weekend after months of being locked down in their houses in what is the first major test of reopening the country amid the ongoing pandemic.
A masked New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted:
“Great run this morning with [New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy], followed by a nice stroll along the boardwalk in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. Lots of folks wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and responsibly enjoying our beautiful Shore this MDW.”
Two weeks ago, Governor Murphy decided to reopen the state’s beaches with some stipulations. New Jersey is one of the hardest-hit states by a coronavirus, with more than 153,000 confirmed cases and over 11,000 deaths.
Stipulations include keeping at least six feet apart, except for household members or relatives. Masks are encouraged but not required on the sand. Bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers will be open and cleaned frequently.
The decision assured the Jersey Shore’s place as a summertime magnet for vacationers from neighboring Pennsylvania and New York. However, there are obvious changes. Atlantic City’s casinos remain closed, while on the boardwalks, while shops are open there will be no fireworks. Ferris wheel rides, roller coasters, go-karts, and arcade games are also not allowed.
In the Atlantic coast from New Jersey, similar scenes were playing out in popular beach towns in both Virginia and Maryland.
A video went viral over the weekend, where a big crowd in Ocean City, Md. can be seen. This leads to local law enforcement to defend their social distancing enforcement practices.
“We have officers on horseback, foot patrol, and vehicle patrol,” Ashley Miller with Ocean City police said. “If we do see groups of 10 or more, we remind them that it is a violation of the governor’s order. Depending on the situation, we would determine what kind of action would be taken.”
Another incident of a viral bad beach behavior involved one state’s top elected official.
Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, faced backlash on social media after appearing in Virginia Beach Saturday without a face mask and not practicing social distancing measures around members of the public.
According to local news outlet 13News Now, Governor Northam reportedly visited the beach with Mayor Bobby Dye on the second day of the beach’s reopening. Virginia Beach’s reopening is considered a test to see if people can safely follow social distancing policies before other beaches in Virginia reopen.
A spokeswoman for the Northam’s office said that the governor should have brought a mask out with him but that he hadn’t been expecting to be near anyone.
In the Tampa area along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the crowds were so huge that authorities took the extraordinary step of closing parking lots because they were full.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said on the Sunday talk shows that she was “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together over the weekend.