Summer is upon us and this year promises to be a year like no other. New York State has begun the slow process of reopening our economy and our usual summer activities will not be anything like we are used to. Although the COVID-19 numbers have greatly improved in New York and on Long Island, the virus is still with us. That is why we need to be careful to not allow another outbreak to occur or we will find ourselves back at square one. Summer fun this year will come with new rules and restrictions as we try to keep the crisis from reemerging.
Beaches have started opening across Suffolk County. This is certainly an exciting development for people who have been eagerly anticipating a chance to enjoy our shores after many months stuck at home. Albany has issued new rules for beachgoers for the foreseeable future. Beach capacities will be reduced by 50 percent. Everyone must maintain six feet of social distance and wear a facemask when they encounter others. Beach blankets and chairs must be at least 10 feet apart to ensure that the beach capacity is not being exceeded. Concessions must remain closed to avoid the gathering of large crowds and on-site facilities, such as bathrooms, can only have 50 percent capacity at any time.
Long Island has some of best beaches in the world and they are a staple of our community. But what we don’t want is to see is our beaches become major hotpots for spreading the disease. While outdoor spread of the coronavirus is not as likely as when indoors, that does not mean that you are invincible when outside. If we all take some sensible steps to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease to others, we can ensure that New York will continue its progress combatting the virus and that we prevent our vulnerable populations from being exposed.
As of press time, Long Island is getting closer to entering Phase 1 of reopening near the end of May or early June. This will begin a two-month process of slowly reopening certain industries and tracking the spread of the disease. By mid-summer we could see the limited reopening of bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues. However, businesses will need to continue to take strict measures to protect their patrons and their employees from getting sick. That will mean opening with no more than 50 percent capacity and keeping distance between people. Many are eager to visit their favorite bars again or take their families out to dinner. Certainly, these activities will look differently than they have in the past and enjoying them will require vigilance on all our parts to prevent another outbreak. That being said, our small businesses are another place to look for summer fun. Many are finding creative ways to make their offerings “to go,” shipping experiences to your front door. It’s a great way to support our local shop owners while keeping busy.
Many of our county’s parks have stayed open during this crisis with restrictions on certain activities. As of June 1, Suffolk County is expecting to have all parks, golf courses, marinas, camping, and tennis courts open for general use. Other venues like community pools will remain closed for the time being. Large events and gatherings will continue to be restricted as well. As of right now, overnight and day camps for kids are expected to remain closed for the near future. Like other activities, visitors to parks must remain at a distance from others and where masks when they cannot. Parks have been a saving grace for many who have used the outdoors to relieve stress and get exercise during these last few months. I have been taking my family on trips to our parks to help burn off some energy accumulated from staying home.
This summer will have us rethinking many of the recreational activities we have taken for granted. We are all eager to get back some semblance of normalcy after many months that have been anything but. However, we cannot allow our eagerness to let us make reckless decisions. We have seen the devastating cost a major outbreak can bear and no one wants to see that happen again. So, whether you plan to spend the next few months at the beach, hiking in a park, or continuing to stay home, I ask that you be smart and mindful of others while enjoying our summertime fun.