Despite coronavirus concerns, region's beaches are packed for holiday
Monday, May 25, 2020
Amid the coronavirus pandemic,
But you wouldn't guess that by the looks of beaches within driving distance of the CSRA.
At Tybee Island on Sunday, officials counted thousands on the beaches to ring in the unofficial start of summer. Although most restrictions there have been lifted for beachgoers, several law enforcement agencies are out to enforce social distancing as best as they can.
“I’ve never seen crowds like this. Cars like this, too. All the way up the street,” said Alex McCarthy, who was visiting the island.
Although the sands sure look packed, visitors say most people are keeping their distance.
“Everybody’s kind of not on top of each other,” one beachgoer said. “They’re with their group, so I feel comfortable.”
Auburn Rigdon, who was also visiting, agreed.
“There’s more people here than there is parking, so what are they going to do? Where are they going to park, but like, everyone is having fun. I haven’t seen any problems down here.”
Lifeguards there on the beach say the biggest problem they’ve dealt with actually has nothing to do with the coronavirus — they say they're spending the most time helping parents find their kids who are getting lost in those big crowds.
Tybee City officials reported 11,000 cars coming on the island on Friday, and more than 13,086 on Saturday.
“Anytime you’ve got this many people on a small island like this right here, you’re going to have a lot of gridlock, and we’re just happy that things are going real well with no accidents or injuries,” said Capt. Thornell King of the Georgia State Patrol.
With hotels and tourist attractions back open in South Carolina, Myrtle beach is seeing one of its busiest Memorial Day weekends in some time. Officials there say the beaches, restaurants and hotels are all packed.
The massive crowds are also attracting crime.
Myrtle Beach police say they’re investigating
One happened early Monday just before 1 a.m. near 15th Avenue, leaving one person dead and one in custody.
That incident came just 24 hours after shots were fired near 12th Avenue, leaving four people injured and six taken into custody.
Last weekend, another shooting incident occurred just blocks away.
The most recent shooting has some guests ending their vacations a little early.
“The sad thing is that I’ve never been here, but I don’t want to come back after this," said Holiday Inn at the Pavilion guest Gina Kipfer.
Kipfer drove more than 20 hours so she could spend the long weekend relaxing in Myrtle Beach. Shortly after she checked in to her hotel, however, the relaxing was over.
“Literally step in the room and here all kinds of gunfire,” Kipfer said.
Mayor Brenda Bethune said the shooting looked to be gang-related.
"All of the real time crime unit information does lead to that. It’s another situation very similar to what we had last weekend, where these were two rival gangs who brought their dispute into Myrtle Beach to finish fighting it out,” Bethune said.
While some beach-goers say they've felt comfortable with the crowds — visitors in Hilton Head are telling a different story.
“It’s scary to see the fact that no one's really doing the social distancing or wearing masks,” said John Jenkins.
Many say the beach has been so cramped this weekend, it’s hard to keep a safe social distance. While some say the crowds are alarming, the best thing they can do is be smart about their own choices.
“I’ll definitely be going back and getting my COVID test,” said Nancy Walters. “I got one right before we got here and it was negative and I'll be driving, first in line, when we're back on Tuesday to get another one.”
In Isle of Palms, S.C., Memorial Day weekend brought thousands of people to the shorelines.
According to Isle of Palms Police Chief Cornett, all of the parking lots were full just after 11 a.on Saturday.
On the beach, Cornett says police are responding to the usual calls for alcohol and crowding, even asking dozens of people not to swim in breach inlet, which has been prohibited.
“We do have some issues with social distancing. I’ve already heard some calls going out in reference to some alcohol on the beach," Robert Forsythe with Isle of Palms Police said, "But we’re trying to handle these things before they get too far out of control.”