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The latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak in South Florida. This page ended its updates as of August 2020. Head here for additional stories on COVID-19 and the pandemic.

Palm Beach County Reopens Public Beaches to Everyone

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Flickr/breezy421
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Lake Worth Beach

As Florida’s phase one takes further shape, Palm Beach County commissioners voted 5-2 to reopen public beaches Monday, May 18. Commissioners Gregg Weiss and Mack Bernard opposed the vote during the 3-hour special meeting.

Last week, the commission voted 4-3 to reopen beaches but needed time to hash out legal and social distancing logistics.

Any restrictions?

Everyone can enter Palm Beach County beaches. The county attorney says county officials have a legal basis for instituting a resident-only rule for their beaches but due to grant funding, the county is required to open up beaches to everyone. Some initial concerns, largely from commissioner Weiss, centered on beachgoers from Broward and Miami-Dade possibly inundating Palm Beach County beaches.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay​ struck down previous restrictions on concessions, allowing concessions to be sold at public beaches. And beachgoers are encouraged to adhere to CDC guidelines, keeping at least six feet apart from each person and limiting close physical gatherings to no more than 10 people.

What about controlling beach safety?

County and city agencies are responsible for social distancing guidelines at the beach, but on a micro-level, that responsibility for maintaining social distancing guidelines falls on the lifeguards. During the public comment, an Ocean Rescue EMT/lifeguard representative expressed concerns about opening up the beaches ahead of Memorial Day, saying crowded beachgoers will be difficult to maintain.

Wilkine Brutus is a reporter and producer for WLRN and a guest faculty member at the Poynter Institute. The South Florida native produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs.