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Salisbury Daily Times
Heading to Ocean City or the Delaware beaches for Labor Day weekend?
Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to stick your toes in the sand the weekend of Sept. 4-7 – and what might be different than normal at the beaches in the summer of COVID-19.
Do I have to wear a mask on the boardwalk?
Yes, you have to wear a face covering: On the boardwalks in Ocean City, Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach; inside businesses that are open and in public spaces where social distancing can’t be maintained.
Face masks are recommended, but not required, on most beaches themselves, but social distancing is a must.
Masks must be worn on the streets, sidewalks, boardwalk and inside businesses in Rehoboth Beach city limits.
Visitors walk along the Ocean City Boardwalk on May 31, 2020. Most individuals weren’t wearing masks despite calls from town officials to practice proper social distancing efforts to protect themselves and others. (Photo: Matthew Prensky)
Lewes also requires masks to be worn outdoors in the city’s downtown area, public beach parking lots, and while crossing the Savannah Road drawbridge between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. There are similar guidelines in Bethany Beach, where people in violation of mask rules can face up to a $100 fine.
Ocean City’s requirement that face coverings be worn on the boardwalk was extended ahead of the Labor Day holiday. Anyone over the age of 5 must wear a mask on the boardwalk from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. You can temporarily remove your mask to eat or drink on the boardwalk.
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Swimming is permitted at all beaches, but make sure to check in with local lifeguards before you dive in to learn about any potential hazards, like dangerous weather conditions or rip tides.
Delaware is in its second phase of reopening businesses previously restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. John Carney announced in late June that the state was pausing moving into the next phase due to concerns about people not following guidelines.
A 60% capacity applies to personal care services — such as hair and nail salons, tanning, tattoo, massage therapy services and spas.
In this file photo, stormy skies didn’t stop visitors from walking the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk over last year’s Labor Day weekend. (Photo: Credit Photo/CHUCK SNYDER)
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that all businesses will be allowed to open starting Friday, Sept. 4 at 5 p.m., as the state moves into its third phase of reopening. That includes movie theaters and live venues that have been shuttered since early in the pandemic:
- Indoor theaters can open at 50% capacity or 100 people per auditorium — whichever is less.
- Outdoor venues where performances occur or motion pictures are shown outside can open at 50% capacity or 250 people — whichever is less.
- Retail stores and religious facilities can also increase capacity from 50% to 75%.
Can I get a drink at the bar?
Delaware is allowing beach bars to reopen for Labor Day weekend under strict social distancing guidelines, two months after Carney ordered them to close ahead of the July Fourth weekend.
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Seats must be socially distanced between different households, reservations are required and food must be ordered. The bars still have to follow other rules under the state’s reopening plan.
Delaware restaurants are permitted to operate at 60% of maximum capacity.
In Maryland, bar service is open and restaurants can operate at 50% capacity both indoors and outdoors.
Parking permits or metered parking are in effect in all of Delaware’s beach towns from Lewes to Fenwick Island, and in Ocean City.
In Lewes, city officials are supporting businesses by offering free downtown parking from 9 a.m. to noon for shoppers. Rehoboth Beach is offering free parking Monday nights through Sept. 14, and Dewey Beach also offers free parking in the evening Monday through Wednesday. Bethany Beach, too, is offering free parking from 4-11 p.m. on Tuesdays in August, followed by a whole month of free parking in September.
Each town has different rules and rates for parking. For more information, visit an individual beach town’s website or call Town Hall in the beach town you plan to visit before arriving.
Below are links to each oceanfront beach town’s parking policies:
Travel and rentals
In Delaware, bans on out-of-state travelers and short-term rentals were lifted in early June. Delaware’s reopening plan says leisure travel “should be avoided” at this time, but it’s allowed if people and businesses can adhere to social-distancing-related recommendations, according to the state.
Meanwhile, Delaware has been on and off of quarantine lists for a few neighboring states, but as of Thursday, Aug. 26, First State travelers were in the clear.
Delaware hotels and other accommodations are accepting reservations for vacation stays, though there may be limits and restrictions in gathering areas like lobbies.
Delaware’s daily DART beach bus service is running. People can take advantage of the Park & Ride options in Lewes and Rehoboth to avoid heavy beach traffic south of Lewes.
The National Weather Service forecast for Rehoboth Beach and Ocean City this Labor Day weekend shows sunny skies with highs in the 70’s and 80’s. (Photo: Staff photo by Taylor Goebel)
Face coverings are required on public transportation.
In Ocean City, only essential travel is permitted on the town’s public transit, according to the government website. Face coverings are required and must be worn at all times to ride. Social distancing is highly recommended. If you don’t comply with requirements when riding, you might be asked to leave the bus or denied a ride. A notice on the town’s website says, “Ride at your own risk.”
Boardwalk trams are not in operation.
If you’re hoping for perfect beach weather on Labor Day weekend, you’re in luck.
The National Weather Service forecast for Friday, Sept. 4 in Rehoboth Beach and Ocean City is sunny with a high near 85 degrees. The temperature will drop slightly into the high 70s throughout the weekend, with mostly sunny skies.
There is a moderate rip tide risk for Ocean City this weekend, and widely scattered storms are possible Friday afternoon.
Delaware state parks
Parking is limited at beaches within the Delaware State Parks system, like Cape Henlopen State Park, Fenwick Island State Park and Delaware Seashore State Park near the Indian River Inlet.
The number of vehicles allowed in is capped at 60% of parking capacity, according to parks officials. Masks or face coverings are required in bathhouse and concession areas at all three parks and strongly encouraged on the beach, as well.
At Cape Henlopen, when the gates are closed, admission also is restricted for those with surf-fishing tags. Natural Resources police will be enforcing the 20-foot minimum distance between vehicles on drive-on beaches.
Delaware and Maryland’s COVID-19 case numbers
As of Thursday, Sept. 3, Delaware has seen a total of 17,549 cases since the first case was detected in March, data shows.
Of those cases, 6,335 have been detected in Sussex County.
The pandemic has been linked to the deaths of 606 people in Delaware. So far, 9,467 people have recovered from the viral disease. As of Thursday, Sept. 3, 62 people were hospitalized in Delaware, 9 of whom were considered critical.
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The Maryland Department of Health reported Thursday 110,012 confirmed cases in the state. Maryland has 3,634 deaths, 1,247,593 negative tests and 7,039 patients have been released from isolation.
As of Thursday, Sept. 3, Worcester County had a total of 854 cases, with 25 confirmed deaths and one probable death.
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