Surf’s up and so are new beach rules to prevent coronavirus spread
SANTA MONICA — They arrived at the beach by car, skateboard and on bare feet. They carried Frisbees, cameras and surfboards. They wore running shorts, yoga pants and wetsuits.
Many wore masks.
That was the starkest difference this week apart from a moment in time in March that seems hard to conjure now — before beaches closed and face masks seemed like an extreme and maybe even ineffective protection from coronavirus.
No longer. Masks are now required at Los Angeles County beaches, which reopened Wednesday, to join counterparts in other states that have allowed a somewhat limited return to famed stretches of sand.
“You get some side eyes if you don’t wear a mask,” said Tom Ventura, who sported a light blue face covering with white polka dots while cooling down after his morning run Thursday in Santa Monica.
Along the California coast and in states known for silky sands, warm waters and ample sun, the surf is up along with a new set of rules posted in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Beachgoers in LA County have to remain active — walking, running or swimming. No sunbathing. No picnics. No volleyball. Parking lots, piers and a popular 22-mile (35.4-kilometer) bike path that strings together Santa Monica, Venice, Manhattan and Torrance beaches are also closed.
Similar rules are in place throughout the state, as well as in Florida and Hawaii, though masks are not required at many beaches. Tanning and even picnics are permitted in some places, though people are generally told to only spend time with family members and not gather in large groups.
While beaches in South Florida — Miami and Hollywood — remain closed, beaches in Pinellas County on the Gulf of Mexico allow chairs and towels in the sand but limit groups to no more than 10 people. Signs urge people who don’t live together to remain 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart.
“I think it’s a little much, especially being outside with the sun and everything," said Britt Mask, a Georgia man on vacation with his family at Indian Rocks Beach, near Clearwater, Florida. "I understand why it’s being done.”
In Hawaii, exercise is allowed on beaches on Oahu, but Honolulu police warned people sitting on the sands of Waikiki that they needed to be in the water or moving along.
On the East Coast, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued guidance Thursday to officials in shore towns on reopening beaches, directing them to set occupancy limits and spacing requirements. Popular tourist spots like Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights, home of “Jersey Shore” fame, were opening Friday. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced that beaches will open with limits in time for Memorial Day weekend.
In Greece, with an early heat wave hitting the country over the weekend, more than 500 organized beaches — where umbrellas and lounge chairs are available for hire — were opening Saturday morning, with strict social distancing measures. Free public beaches opened a few weeks ago. Authorities issued warnings when some crowds formed, but beach-goes generally appeared to heed health guidelines.
Beaches closed in many places as stay-at-home orders got stricter after people, who were allowed to exercise, took the opportunity to escape confinement and flocked to the coast on balmy weekends. Public health officials were concerned large gatherings could allow the virus to spread.