Heading to Delaware beaches this weekend? What you need to know about masks, restrictions
Heading to the Delaware beaches this weekend?
So is Tropical Storm Fay, which is bringing stormy conditions to Delmarva and forcing the closure of some beaches for the safety of both lifeguards and the public.
Here's what you need to know if you're planning on dipping your toes in the sand the weekend of July 10 to 12 – and what might be different than normal at the beaches in the current phase of Delaware's reopening plan.
Swimming is permitted at all beaches, unless dangerous weather conditions arise. Make sure to check in with the local lifeguards before you dive in to learn about any potential hazards in the water or on the sand.
The National Weather Service is warning of a high risk of dangerous rip currents on Friday, which means the surf in Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach will be temporarily off-limits to swimming. Rehoboth Beach lifeguard patrols also plan to close the sand for people's safety.
Access and restrictions on beach and boardwalk
Delaware's beach towns are open to the public, but government and public health officials warn that everyone's help is needed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In recent weeks, public health and government officials have raised concerns about spikes in cases at the Delaware beaches, particularly in Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach. Officials have reported that a few teens celebrating senior week in mid-June may have exposed more than 100 people to the virus, and several lifeguards have also tested positive for the virus.
CORONAVIRUS IN DELAWARE:Our latest coverage
Social distancing is encouraged in all public spaces, and people should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from people who are not members of their immediate household.
As for face masks, they are required to be worn in all public spaces where social distancing is difficult, and inside businesses that are open.
Face masks are recommended, but not required, on most beaches themselves, but social distancing is a requirement on the beach.
Face masks are required in all public places in the city of Rehoboth Beach, although local officials on Tuesday changed requirements for masks on the beach itself.
Masks must be worn on the streets, sidewalks, Boardwalk and inside businesses in Rehoboth Beach city limits. They should also be worn on the beach if social distancing is difficult, officials say. Some exceptions apply, like for children 12 and under and those for whom wearing a mask would present a health risk.
Lewes also requires masks to be worn outdoors in the city's downtown area. Masks on the beaches in Lewes are recommended, but not required. The same goes for Bethany Beach, where people in violation of mask rules can face up to a $100 fine.
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, there will be limits on how many people will be admitted.
The number of vehicles allowed in will be 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 will be restricted for those with surf-fishing tags. Natural resources police will be enforcing the 20-foot minimum distance between vehicles on drive-on beaches.
What's open? What's not?
Delaware is in its second phase of reopening businesses previously restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. John Carney announced on June 25 that the state is pausing moving into the next phase, due to concerns with people not following guidelines.
In late June, he announced that bar service at the Delaware beaches had to shut down ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend. This new guidance will affect only bars in certain ZIP codes in eastern Sussex County, state officials said Tuesday.
Current reopening plans allow restaurants to have up to 60% of the people who would be allowed in the building by the fire marshal, not including staff, but they must still adhere to social distancing guidelines. Some have increased outdoor seating to try to accommodate more diners.
Carney's additional restriction on beach bars means bar seating within restaurants also will be off-limits. It's unclear when those bar restrictions will be lifted.
People are encouraged to call ahead for reservations, and to check on any changes in normal operating hours or other restrictions.
As of June 22, that 60% capacity cap also applies to personal care services (such as hair and nail salons, tanning, tattoo, massage therapy services and spas) that were previously required to keep occupancy at 30%.
The state is also allowing sports tournaments to resume, as of June 20, pending the approval of submitted safety plans and other requirements.
No additional announcements have been made on when Delaware will enter phase three of the state's rolling reopening plan. For more details on the state's reopening, go to governor.delaware.gov/delawares-recovery.
Moving toward normalcy means that summer parking fees are also back in place. Parking permits or metered parking is in effect in all of Delaware's beach towns from Lewes to Fenwick Island.
In Rehoboth Beach, a few areas within the first two blocks along Rehoboth Avenue closest to the beach and boardwalk have barricades set up so restaurants can have expanded outdoor seating. Parking is not permitted in those areas.
In Lewes, city officials are supporting businesses by offering free downtown parking from 9 a.m. to noon for shoppers.
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
Previous 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.
Hotels and other accommodations also are now 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 fully operational. People can take advantage of the Park & Ride options in Lewes and Rehoboth to avoid heavy beach traffic south of Lewes.
Face coverings are required on public transportation.
The Lewes Park & Ride is at 17616 Coastal Highway, just south of Five Points, and the Rehoboth Park & Ride is off Route 1 at 20055 Shuttle Road, just north of the entrance to Rehoboth Avenue. Parking is free at both lots.
Cash-only fare due upon boarding for a one-way trip is $2, and an all-day daily pass is $4.20. Seven-day passes also are available for $18, and a 30-day pass costs $65. For more information, go to www.dartfirststate.com/information/programs/beachbus/index.shtml#parkride.
DART's beach connection, which runs from Wilmington to Rehoboth Beach on weekends and holidays, is also now available.
This weekend's weather is looking to be far less than picture-perfect for a trip to the beach. However, forecasts can change as the weekend gets closer.
The National Weather Service forecast for Friday, July 10, in Rehoboth Beach is for a stormy day with a high near 80 degrees. There is a 100% chance of precipitation with a warning that tropical storm conditions are possible.
Parts of southern Delaware, including Fenwick Island and Rehoboth Beach, are under a flash flood watch until 4 p.m. Friday. A tropical storm warning also has been issued for the area.
There is also a high risk of dangerous rip currents that could sweep swimmers into deeper water on Friday, and that risk could linger into Saturday, the weather service warns.
Saturday will be mostly sunny with a high near 87 degrees, and a 40% chance of rain and thunderstorms during the day.
Sunday should be a sunny day with a high near 87.
Water temperatures off the coast of Lewes are reaching the low to mid-70s this week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Delaware's COVID-19 case numbers
As June transitioned into July, Delaware's positive COVID-19 case counts were increasing by more than 100 new cases per day on average. As of July 9, Delaware had seen a total of 12,531 cases, data shows.
Of those cases, 5,626 are in New Castle County, the most populated county in the state. Another 5,008 have been detected in Sussex County.
The pandemic has led to the deaths of 517 Delawareans since mid-March. So far, over 130,000 people have been tested in total, and 6,901 people have recovered from the viral disease.
Contact reporter Maddy Lauria at (302) 345-0608, email@example.com or on Twitter @MaddyinMilford.