PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — With Walton and Okaloosa Counties both closing their beaches, locals are wondering if Bay County will follow suit.
Many people are voicing concerns after seeing videos of spring breakers enjoying themselves in large numbers on Panama City Beach, however, both city and county officials say they’re not ready to make that move to close just yet.
It’s scenes Panama City Beach had just Wednesday afternoon that have people worried about the possible spread of the Coronavirus.
It prompted Panama City Beach Police to step-up Thursday’s enforcement of emergency laws and suggested guidelines for combatting COVID-19.
“I don’t think we’ve done a great job of that so far and we’ve put more presence down there today to make sure that we’re following all the rules,” said Panama City Beach Mayor, Mike Thomas.
Panama City Beach Police and Bay County Sheriff’s Deputies have been tasked with keeping the crowds safe and informed.
Some local leaders say they believe it’s possible to accomplish those goals without shutting down the beaches.
“Because over the next few weeks things are going to be a little different, and some sort of recreation for folks is going to be well needed,” said Bay County Chairman, Philip Griffitts.
“They seem to think if we keep people spaced out, if we keep people sanitary and we keep people clean that this will work its course,” said Mayor Thomas.
Authorities admit wherever there are people congregating, there will be risks of spreading the virus, but others say they do not want to jump the gun on a decision just yet.
“I’m not going to tell you that you’re better off somewhere else than you are down on that beach if you’re separated from somebody,” said Mayor Thomas.
While they aren’t closing the beaches, city officials say they are taking a proactive approach.
Besides the increased police presence, they’re posting COVID-19 public emergency signs at all of the public beach accesses, and on the banner planes that fly over the beaches.