As beaches reopen for the summer, the new regulations at the shore will be vital for Long Islanders to know before they head out for some much-needed time in the sun.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Friday, along with governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, that state and local beaches and lakeshores will reopen the Friday before Memorial Day under certain minimum conditions.
Elected officials say the new regulations are crucial to prevent a resurgence of the novel coronavirus as regions steadily move to reopen areas and businesses that have been closed for weeks.
“We have worked on an agreement allowing beaches to be open with proper social distancing and other public health protections in place, so we can begin establishing a new normal without jeopardizing the progress we've already made,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Yes, they will be open by Memorial Day weekend through the end of the season — unless there’s a failure to observe the new safety guidelines set by the state, the governor’s office confirmed in an email.
Some beachgoers will get turned away when their numbers reach 50% of capacity, according to the state guidelines. The limits will be enforced at the parking lots and beach entrances.
Officials will need to ensure staffing levels are adequate to achieve the new measures and enforce crowd control.
City, town and county beaches can reopen under the same 50% capacity guidelines, in addition to other conditions local governments can set.
If a local government does not enforce the minimum rules, the beach will be closed, Cuomo said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said city-run beaches will not reopen for the holiday weekend. He said “it’s not safe yet” for those beaches to reopen.
Local governments have until Wednesday to inform the public of their intention to reopen, the guidelines stated.
In Nassau County, officials are developing a staffing and enforcement plan, which includes cashless toll booths and increased signage, at Nickerson Beach, the only county-run beach.
Suffolk County will reopen Smith Point County Park and Cupsogue Beach County Park beaches on Memorial Day. The county’s other beaches are slated to open the third week of June, county officials said.
Meanwhile, Long Beach officials have said they need to ensure they can hire several hundred seasonal workers, including lifeguards, ticket takers and police officers. The city has not decided when beach passes might go on sale or when the 2.2-mile oceanfront boardwalk, which closed in March, could reopen. “Our biggest challenge to getting up and running is the amount of people it will take to staff up quickly enough,” city spokesman John McNally said.
All beaches, whether state or local, must follow the minimum rules, which include the 50% capacity limitation, social distancing rules and wearing masks when social distancing can't be followed. But local governments have the ability to add to the list of regulations at their beaches.
Lifeguards will be on duty, but public health experts warn that they will be putting themselves at risk of the virus during resuscitations when saving drowning swimmers, who might be infected.
Unlike some other states, New York is not requiring lifeguards to wear gloves or goggles.
Suffolk said its lifeguards would undergo enhanced training, including using underwater compatible masks when saving swimmers.
Fire Island will bring on lifeguards beginning May 24 who should be ready for duty by the July 4 weekend, according to the National Park Service.
Concession stands and other areas that attract hoards of people will remain closed, including designated picnic areas, playgrounds, pavilions, arcades and amusement rides.
All employees and beach visitors are required to wear a mask when social distancing is not possible, according to state guidelines.
Suffolk's plan requires visitors to wear masks on boardwalks, stairways and restrooms, but not on the beach or in the water.
Some beachgoers’ favorite group activities on the sand will be prohibited, including sports such as volleyball and football.
Like concession stands and playgrounds, which attract groups of people, swimming pools will remain closed.
Cuomo’s announcement on Friday permitted local governments to make their own call on when to reopen beaches in their jurisdiction, so long as they can follow and enforce the new safety guidelines. State beaches will reopen by May 22, but some beaches can reopen before that.