By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – The residents of Delray Beach are anxiously awaiting news on when Palm Beach County will allow beaches to open, as well as how local City government will role out the decision. The Delray Beach City Commission held a Special Meeting on Beach Opening Implementation at 2PM on Thursday, and the County meet Friday morning.
The provisional decision by Palm Beach County commissioners was that beaches will reopen Monday, May 18th, but only to county residents. This was a tentative plan approved 4-3 by the county commission Friday, and Commissioners set a meeting for next Friday to make the final vote.
If approved, all public and private beaches would be allowed to reopen from sunrise to sunset. The commission rejected the proposal to ban sunbathing or beach chairs, limiting beach activities to walking, running and swimming. However they voted to prohibit gatherings of greater than ten and to require beachgoers maintain a distance of six feet from others.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees called into the meeting. “Wearing a face mask is important for a number of reasons,” he said, pointing in particular to people who don’t know they have the virus and have no symptoms but could be spreading it.
Rivkees says wearing a face mask has “shown to have impact. Our guidance is if individuals are in public, a face mask is very important.”
City and private beach owners can set their own restrictions, but can’t do anything less restrictive than the county. The county’s beaches have been closed since March 20th, and recently the public debate to open or not has been intensifying.
On Thursday, May 7th, the Delray Beach City Commission met virtually again, and were joined by police department representative, fire chief, director of emergency management and park staff.
The Commission agreed that if beaches are allowed to open, but only during the hours when life guards were on duty to enforce social distancing. Also in the initial phase, the city plans to reopen metered parking along A1A, but only open parking lots for locals who have residential stickers.
Commissioner Ryan Boylston said the city has to maintain the crowds. “Delray beaches are minutes away from Broward, where their beaches will be closed, unlike Jupiter, which is more like an hour,” he said.
Commissioner Adam Frankel shared as a first phase, “My preference would be for the beach to be open for walking, jogging and swimming, but not for sunbathing. That is if the county agrees with that at their meeting tomorrow.”