LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — As we get closer to the summer, there is concern that beaches could become breeding grounds for the coronavirus.
On Long Island, leaders are now trying to figure out how to keep people safe while still allowing some summer fun.
Beaches are the lifeblood of the Long Island economy.
Many in local government are urging taking steps now to prevent their coasts from getting packed, which public health experts say could allow the coronavirus to spread further.
“That is going to require a lot of coordination and a lot of creative thinking,” Sen. Todd Kaminsky said.
Kaminsky says from the Rockaways in New York City to New York State’s Jones Beach, there could be anarchy among cooped-up residents or a free-for-all without a plan.
“In between are many different jurisdictions — the city of Long Beach, Nassau County, town of Hempstead, beach clubs, villages,” he said.
“It’s going to be hard as you know to keep six feet apart,” one person said.
“It’s scary, all those people,” another person said.
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“It’s not about the beach, it’s really about the close contact with people,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
She says beach sand and ocean swimming do not in themselves pose a great threat.
“The virus will not live in salt water … and it’s certainly not going to live on the sand because it’s going to dehydrate,” Nachman told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
But she said door knobs and faucets in restrooms, water fountains or concession stands could put people at risk, even if beach clubs post guards to try to enforce social distancing.
“We are awaiting guidance from the state,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.
Long Island town supervisors are working together on beach procedures.
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Some patrons of private beach clubs are already being billed annual dues, but what if openings are partial or scaled way back?
“I think it’s outrageous, and I think that they shouldn’t charge anybody and they shouldn’t bill anybody for a service they’re not providing,” beach club member Jean Taliana said.
“They could allocate the funds for next year. I’m still going to pay, just in case. You never know, we don’t know,” beach club member Alexis Conrad said.
Questions loom: Would new signage, pedestrian barriers, residency requirements and shoreline patrols keep people safe?
Long Island leaders hope to get the word from Albany in the next 10 days so they can coordinate beach plans and protocols.