LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The road to reopening is taking another step forward, with Fridays announcement that a day at the beach will happen – but with some changes.
It may not look like the summer Long Islanders have come to love, but there will be a form of a beach season in New York.
With Memorial Day weekend nearly upon us and rules being crafted, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says state beaches will open a week from today, with 50% capacity.
Many beaches never truly closed. Jones Beach has social distancing markings on the boardwalk, and beachgoers asked to do the right thing.
“Most people are wearing their masks. If they’re in a family grouping they don’t have to,” one person said.
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“If I get too close to someone I immediately put the mask on,” said another.
The question “will beaches open for the summer” is really about “will lifeguards be on duty, concessions open, parking lots allowed to fill?”
Friday, Cuomo answered, announcing a multi-state agreement, effective next Friday.
“The agreement is New York, New Jersey Connecticut Delaware will all be opening beaches, for the Memorial Day weekend. States will have different specific rules about what happens on that beach,” Cuomo said. “If New Jersey opens beaches or Connecticut opens beaches and we didn’t open beaches, you would see a flood of people to Connecticut, and New Jersey… We want what’s best for New York but we want what’s best for New Yorkers.”
Concessions will be closed. No group contact activities will be allowed. Masks must be worn in proximity to others.
It will be up to local governments – towns, counties, cities – to make their own beach decision by Wednesday. If they decide to open, the must follow the state’s restrictions, or have tighter ones.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city is not ready to open its beaches. Its density can’t compare to suburban coastlines.
“It’s painful because we would all love to be able to go to the beach with the hot weather, but it’s not safe yet. beaches come with a whole lot of people getting together,” the mayor said. “It takes traveling to the beach, which means there goes the notion of only keeping to essential travel, that’s something that we’re just not ready for. We’re going to look at it constantly, be in close touch with the state and the day may come, but we’re not there yet.”
State Senator Todd Kaminsky worries that will create an unsafe chaos. He’s calling for one uniform regional plan.
“Can you imagine tens of thousands of people going down to a city beach that’s closed? That’s going to put tremendous pressure on the beaches that are open. So we want to all be reading off the same sheet of music, from Montauk to Staten Island,” he said.
The planning has been going for weeks already for Long Island’s many jurisdictions of beaches, coming up with the same rules. Both Nassau and Suffolk beaches will open next Friday.
“It’s unrealistic to think they are not going to come to the beach, especially when there is nothing else. We don’t have playgrounds, movies, amusement parks. So it is far better to do this in a smart, safe controlled way,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
“Local municipalities will be responsible for the enforcement of the rules on the beaches, so we are top of that,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
Some beachgoers, though, are concerned that social distancing is not a perfect science.
“As long as they remain social distancing, we won’t have an increase in cases of COVID,” one person said.
“It’s a hard call,” said another.
“It’s our asset, one of the jewels of of Long Island,” one person said. “I’m really happy they’ll be open. Hopefully fully functional.”
The downstate regions remain on PAUSE, and the beach ruling doesn’t change that. It’s going to be a warm, sunny weekend. It may look like a dry run to see how the regions do following safety protocols already in place.
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The beach decision came the same day five of ten regions in New York state began reopening.
Phase one of the coronavirus reopening plan includes residential and commercial construction with social distancing and masks. Retail businesses can conduct curbside pickups and all parties involved must wear masks. The store owner must make hand sanitizer available, no in-store shopping – only pickups if curbside is not practical.
Local governments must have daily regional monitoring and be prepared to take immediate action if they see an increase in cases, the governor said.
“You will see an increase. We expect to see an increase. But that increase has to be monitored and has to be controlled,” he said.
Cuomo said that most new COVID-19 cases are coming from “home spread,” meaning that people are infected while at home.
“So we’re talking about home spread more than at work, more than first responders, more than essential personnel. And that’s the hardest place to control the spread is when a person’s literally at home, right? There are very few precautions. It’s all about personal behavior,” he said.
There were 132 additional deaths, Cuomo said.
Separately, Cuomo reiterated that hair salons would reopen as part of phase two.