YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Local governments are changing rules for their beaches or closing them outright following Governor Northam’s Stay at Home order Monday to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in Virginia.
Despite continued federal and state guidelines on social distancing, which advise all Americans to stay at least 6 feet away from others and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, beachgoers packed the sand across the area this past weekend.
Photos of places such as Chic’s Beach in Virginia Beach (above) show crowds tightly bunched on Sunday.
“Everyone who is gathering in a crowd at any place around the state is putting themselves and others at risk,” said Gov. Northam Monday.
On Sunday, ahead of the governor’s announcement, Norfolk City Councilman Tommy Smigiel warned that Norfolk beaches could be closed if people don’t follow distancing guidelines.
Monday’s stay at home order states that all Virginia beaches will be closed except for exercise and fishing.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t taking this seriously, particularly young folks. That’s what I’ve seen: young people on the beach. It’s the young people,” Smigiel said.
Smigiel supports the new “stay home” message from Northam.
“It’s not only about the governor, it’s about the people who are smarter, the medical people we are depending on for guidance who are saying this is what needs to be done. Then we all have to listen,” he said.
10 On Your Side asked Smigiel whether he supports Northam’s new order.
“I do support the governor. I do and it’s a good move. I am listening to what the experts say on this. We don’t want to turn out to be like New York or some of these other states. We don’t want overloaded hospitals,” he said.
Up in Hampton, beaches are already closed except for walking.
Carly Trevathan is the guard out on the beach who is reminding people to keep moving. She found the Deleon family, which had dropped a blanket and settled down.
“We were told the beach is now closed, and we have to walk but not sit as a group. We are going to vacate and go home,” Larisa Deleon told WAVY News.
Trevathan said her main goal is to keep people from gathering.
“My orders are to keep people from sitting or swimming or hanging out on the beach. As of now they are allowed to come, walk, run, or bike for the time being, but they are not allowed to gather out on the beach,” she said.
A couple Hampton Roads localities had already made changes to beach access prior to Monday’s executive order, to help avoid future scenes like the one above.
York County had effectively closed Yorktown Beach to all activities “due to the level of beach activity experienced this past weekend.” It comes after an earlier ban on sunbathing and swimming at the beach issued Friday.
“My hope in limiting the beach to pedestrian-only activity last week was for citizens to enjoy the beauty of the beach area while maintaining their distance and reducing their chance of exposure,” said Neil Morgan, York County Administrator. “Unfortunately, in the interests of public health and safety, all beach activity is now prohibited. To be clear, the sand on both sides of the bridge is off limits.”
The Monday order means no one is allowed on the beach, National Park Service beaches or the grass at the beach’s picnic area. All public restrooms at the waterfront and Yorktown fishing pier are also closed. The Riverwalk Landing pathway is still open for now, but officials encourage users to spread out from others.
Hampton beaches were closed to sunbathing and swimming on Sunday afternoon. They remain open for walking only at this time.
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