By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter

DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – It was announced late Monday evening that in coordination with Palm Beach County, the City of Delray Beach will begin a phased and gradual reopening of city parks and golf courses, with restrictions, effective Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Beaches remain closed until further notice.

Lakeview Park, Delray Beach, Florida
Lakeview Park is one of the public spaces the Delray Beach began a phased and gradual reopening on April 29, 2020, photo by City of Delray Beach.

With the announcement, city officials confirm that CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and Florida Health Department guidelines will remain in effect to ensure the safety of residents and park employees, including wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

Deputy Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson discussed the ongoing effects of the pandemic on the local community on the Facebook video Delray Beach COVID-19 UPDATE: Tuesday, April 28, 2020. When asked about how the reopening of the city will look, she admitted that is the big question.

“I think it’s going to be day-by-day, moment-by-moment, activity-by-activity,” Commissioner Johnson explained. Also announcing that “City commissioners are coming back to city hall in the form of a virtual city commission meeting on May the 5th at 4PM.”

Johnson added, “It’s time the city came back as a commission and show that we are still – even though we assigned Mr Gretsas as city manager, that we are still here and representing our residents.”

George Gretsas earns $265,000 per year. Other highlights of his contract include thirty vacation days, fifteen sick days and a car allowance of $750 per month. The city covers the cost of his health insurance policy, which totals $25,200 per year and pay for a life insurance policy.

On the video, Fire Chief Keith Tomey went over the county’s plan to reopen parks and outdoor activities in detail. He confirmed that police, park rangers, and designated staff shall patrol parks and monitor and ensure compliance with physical distancing guidelines.

Atlantic Dunes Park, Delray Beach, Florida
Atlantic Dunes Park will not be part of the April 29th reopening, as it includes beach access, photo by City of Delray Beach.

An example is that basketball courts shall be open for individual practice only, with only three players per half court shall be allowed. Competitive team games are prohibited, and each player must bring his/her basketball and there shall be no shared use of equipment.

As far as golf, the guidelines are that play shall be set-up for walking, single-rider golf cart, or shared cart for families living in the same household. Course staff shall confirm household verification by ID. Shared carts shall be marked and identified by a small colored flag to indicate verified family sharing.

The list of rules is long and it will certainly take some time for residents and officials to get used to the new normal. Despite the challenges, there is a huge public demand for some re-opening, for financial and mental health reasons.

Yet this partial step happens as new statistics provided by the CDC, show death totals due to the coronavirus in seven hardest-hit states are nearly fifty percent higher than normal for the five weeks from March 8th through April 11th – as reported by the New York Times.

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