Manatee County Public Beaches to Reopen with Restrictions Monday, May 4

Coconut Telegraph

County Commissioners today unanimously voted to reopen public beaches next Monday, May 4 to allow Manatee County residents to enjoy the sand and surf along Anna Maria Island.

The County will reopen public beaches with restrictions. Beachgoers are expected to observe CDC social distancing guidelines and they will be limited to two hour parking if they're parking at the County's public parking lots. County Administrator Cheri Coryea said those who park beyond two hours will be given a parking ticket. Fines and additional restrictions on public beaches will be announced later this week as County Government leaders elaborate on the plan to reopen public beaches and spaces.

Administrator Coryea made the recommendation to Commissioners to reopen beaches as part of a phased re-opening of public buildings and facilities in May. Additional County reopening details are dependent on orders and guidelines being issued by federal and state officials.

"We will be looking at parking restrictions at beaches by reducing the amount of parking available and asking people to limit the amount of time they're there," Coryea said. "We plan to offer time-limited parking so that more individuals can passively enjoy the beach."

"I like this plan (to reopen beaches) but we don’t want people loitering," said County Commissioner Priscilla Trace. "People should come and exercise, walk, shell, swim and move on."

Manatee County's public beaches initially closed March 20. Today's action was the latest in a series of virtual meetings Commissioners have had during COVID-19. It can be viewed on demand on the County's YouTube channel.

Manatee County Public Safety Director Jacob Saur relayed all of the latest local details and response efforts to Commissioners earlier in the meeting. He also explained how Department of Health officials are responding to the spike of coronavirus cases in local longterm care facilities whose residents make up a large percentage of the County's total number of cases and deaths.

"The Department of Health has every possible resource in the facilities with a (COVID-19) outbreak," Saur said. "We’ve been doing assessments on those facilities for a month. We continue to test, test, test. The National Guard will be coming and working day and night to get it under control."

Commissioners extended the local state of emergency related to COVID-19 but they let expire the local burn ban that had been in place since March. Steady rains over the weekend helped reverse very dry local conditions.

At the end of the meeting Coryea relayed additional news from Tallahassee. She said Florida Senate President Bill Galvano confirmed that a regional (Manatee/Sarasota) test center is now being planned and details will be announced as soon as they're finalized with local officials. Galvano also said another 1,000 COVID-19 test kits will arrive for local testing tomorrow, with details announced after determining where they're needed most. Finally, Galvano has requested a separate batch of test kits specifically for the homeless of Manatee County. County leaders will announce when those test kits become available.

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