- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the beaches in Virginia Beach may open Friday under strict health guidelines, two days after the beaches experienced crowds despite technically being closed under the state’s stay-at-home order.

Mr. Northam, a Democrat, said he instructed the state’s secretary of natural resources to ensure beach communities “toughen” their reopening plans. 

Sunbathing, swimming, fishing and surfing will be allowed, while bringing alcohol, tents, speakers or umbrellas to the beach is prohibited. The town will cap parking lots at 50% capacity to avoid overcrowding.

“Let me be clear: These rules must be followed,” Mr. Northam said. “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 1 restrictions or even close the beach outright if necessary.”

Reports this weekend said Virginia Beach saw plenty of visitors, but groups maintained distance from one another and many wore masks. In Phase 1 of Virginia’s reopening plan, beaches were still considered off-limits.

Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer also urged residents and visitors to follow social distancing guidelines and other regulations at the beach, calling it “short-term inconvenience for a long-term gain.”

“We must not take this opportunity for granted, and everyone needs to be committed to being safe and proactive when visiting the beaches,” Mr. Dyer, a Republican, said.

The governor emphasized the opening only applied to Virginia Beach and the adjacent First Landing State Park.

Virginia Beach follows some other beach communities, like Ocean City, Maryland, in reopening for the summer. New Jersey also plans to reopen its beaches and shore points this weekend, in time for Memorial Day. 

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