PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay County Commissioners met Friday afternoon and unanimously decided to close down all of the beaches in Bay County for a seven-day period.
The Coronavirus and the public’s safety was the top priority on commissioners’ minds for closing the beaches. However, vacationers and residents have mixed opinions on the beach closing.
The scene of an empty beach is not typical for Panama City Beach residents and vacationers to see. After the decision to close all beaches within the county amid the Coronavirus going around, signs are placed at each access point for the beach within the county.
For at least the next seven days, Bay County Sheriff’s Deputies, as well as Panama City Beach Police Officers, will be patrolling the beach to keep people off the white sands.
Some natives of Bay County see this as a necessary step to ensure social distancing.
“I think there are so many people that we have to think about and what’s going on and even though it’s sad I think that we all just need to do our part,” said Panama City Beach Resident, Kairi Picora.
Some say this is only a temporary fix.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea I think if you can keep people separated from not being in big groups and I think the young people that came here didn’t listen to the rules and they created the problem,” said long time Panama City Beach Resident, Arleen Conrad.
However, many don’t think this precaution will be enough.
“I think there’s just gonna be more cases coming out,” said Picora.
Others say this is not fair to those residents who have been enjoying the beach for decades and families who just want to getaway.
“You have people that come here that are paying a lot of money to go to hotels and motels, they deserve the right to go to the beach, but don’t make everybody else suffer for the young people that were on Spring Break,” said Conrad.
Opinions aside, Panama City Beach Police are making sure everyone is educated on the closure rules.
“If we got people that go out there beginning today that we’ve warned and warned we will enforce it is a zero-tolerance policy, but we want to educate people first we know some people are just now getting in town,” said Panama City Beach Police Chief, Drew Whitman.
But not everyone is banned from the beach..
“If they actually on the beachfront property they have to show us the deed or proof that they own the house and it’s only the people that are on the deed, see if I own a piece of property on the beach in my names on the title I won’t be able to take my kids my family or anyone else, I’d be the only one allowed on the beach. So if you got a husband and wife that own that property they would be the only ones allowed on the beach and they would only be allowed to be 30 feet away from the water, basically the ragged line they wouldn’t be able to get in the water,” said Whitman.
For at least the next seven days, the Bay County Commissioners will keep the beaches closed, but will come together again on March 26th to reassess if they want to open the beaches to the public or keep them closed.