Safety a concern as crowded beaches expected in many places Memorial Day weekend

U.S.

MIAMI BEACH (NewsNation Now) — The second summer of COVID-19 is likely to look much different than last year’s: Many virus restrictions have been lifted, nightclubs and dance floors will be packed again, and restaurants can serve full crowds indoors.

From the Coney Island Boardwalk in New York to the Carolina Coast, beaches are expected to be crowded this Memorial Day weekend.

Tourists are flocking to the southeast for their first big trip since the pandemic started.

“It feels awesome to finally be out here. It feels pretty safe now; I’m fully vaccinated,” one Florida visitor told NewsNation.

“It is busy; everywhere you look it’s a lot of people, like everybody trying to get out,” another traveler said.

Along the Florida coasts and around Orlando, many hotels were booked solid through the weekend.

“We are going into off-season, and it has not slowed down,” said Cathy Balestriere, general manager of Crane’s Beach House, a boutique hotel in Delray Beach, Florida.

Masks aren’t required on beaches and will also no longer be required for vaccinated people at Universal Studios Theme Parks in Orlando, starting Saturday.

In Miami Beach, so far the crowds have been calm. However, local residents fear the beach could become overcrowded, as it did over Spring Break when police say the crowds were out of control. Some partiers were destructive and there were 1,000 arrests.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber worries it could happen again.

“This weekend will likely be challenging. We have to assume that even more people will be coming this Memorial Day weekend. And regrettably, too many will be coming to act out,” Gelber said in a statement.

During Spring Break, there was a stampede of people, police used pepper balls to clear the mostly African American crowd. This weekend is the unofficial Urban Beach Weekend on Miami Beach and the NAACP and other Black organizations say they’ll be monitoring the way police handle the situation.

When asked if the police’s riot tactics were acceptable during Spring Break, Stephen Hunter, with the Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Committee, said: “Unfortunately, and I asked them specifically about the paintball gun pepper spray mechanisms, they will have those, but they say they have procedures in place as to when to use them. My concern is it always creates more of a crowd rush than it diffuses.”

Vacation destinations like Las Vegas, Hawaii and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, were among the top destinations for holiday revelers, according to AAA.

Hotels and other lodging in beach and mountain areas are expecting bigger crowds than those in cities.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

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