The reopening of the beaches and boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, will face a big test this weekend as crowds gather for Memorial Day.
How will this work out in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, with social distancing required and masks encouraged? The city’s mayor told WTOP that people have to work together to follow the rules.
Ocean City lifted the restrictions on hotels and other short-term rentals last weekend, and plenty of people took advantage, Mayor Rick Meehan said. He suspected the Memorial Day holiday weekend will bring out at least as many people.
“People are anxious to get out and about,” Meehan said. “And the hotels will be prepared, and we will be prepared to the best of our ability.”
That doesn’t mean he expects a regular-sized Memorial Day crowd. Restaurants in Ocean City are still only open for carryout, and bars and other amusement venues are still closed.
“We’re all in a little bit of the unknown,” Meehan said. “We do not expect the crowds to be as high as they have been in the past.”
Given the expected weather, there could be a bigger crowd on the boardwalk than the beach, and that means social distancing. Meehan said the compliance has been good and he expects it to remain so.
“There are always going to be those few individuals who maybe are a little hesitant to do so, or just not cognizant. But, for the most part, people are being courteous; people are trying to social-distance. … So far, I think we’ve been able to manage it, and it’s worked pretty well,” he said.
“People really were following the guidelines” on the beach, Meehan said, but he added, “If it became necessary, [closing the beach and the boardwalk again] would certainly be something we would consider doing. But I think people are complying, and I think that people realize … they’re going to have to comply with the orders that are in place.”
Meehan had a few pieces of advice for people looking to come to Ocean City.
First, if you live somewhere with a stay-at-home order, stay away: “We’re not encouraging anybody to violate stay-at-home orders. There’s a reason for [them]; we would certainly support that.”
Second, “If you’re staying in a condo, bring a lot of your own provisions. Because supplies could be short; we’re not sure.”
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He recommends wearing masks, but didn’t say it would be required.
In general, voluntary compliance with the rules is what will make the weekend, and the rest of the summer, in Ocean City work.
“We’re all in this together,” Meehan said. “Everybody’s going to have to work together.”
WTOP’s John Aaron contributed to this report.