Heading to the Delaware beaches this weekend?
Here's what you need to know if you're planning to stick your toes in the sandthe weekend of Aug. 28-30 and what might be different than normal at the beaches in the summer of COVID-19.
Delaware's beach towns are open to the public, but government and public health officials warn that everyone's help is neededto curb the spread of COVID-19.
Social distancing is encouraged in all public spaces, and people should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from those who are not members of their immediate household.
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As for face masks, they are required to be wornin 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 must.
Masks must be worn on the streets, sidewalks, boardwalk and inside businesses in Rehoboth Beach city limits.
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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 inBethany Beach, where people in violation of mask rules can face up to a $100 fine.
Swimming is permitted at all beachesunless 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.
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 are limits on how many people will be admitted.
The number of vehicles allowed in iscapped 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 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 phasedue to concerns about people not following guidelines.
In late June, he also announced that bar service at the Delaware beaches had to shut downahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
This affects taprooms and bar service in the following towns: Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Long Neck, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island, West Fenwick Island, Ocean View and Millville, according to the order.
Customers can still get service at tables or outdoors.
Crowds came out on July 4th to Rehoboth Beach, as seen from atop the Atlantic Sands.(Photo: Chuck Snyder/Special to Delaware News Journal)
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 is also off-limits. Those bar restrictions have not yet been lifted.
People are encouraged to call ahead for reservationsand to check on any changes in normal operating hours or other restrictions.
Hot weather and clear skies brought thousands of visitors to Rehoboth Beach on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Social distancing did not appear to be followed very strictly on either the beach or boardwalk, with mask usage also not ubiquitous.(Photo: Chuck Snyder/Special to Delaware News Journal)
That 60% capacity cap also applies to personal care services such as hair and nail salons, tanning, tattoo, massage therapy services and spasthat were previously required to keep occupancy at 30%.
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 togovernor.delaware.gov/delawares-recovery.
Parking permits or metered parking are in effect in all of Delaware's beach towns from Lewes to Fenwick Island.
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 on 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. onTuesdays 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:
Bans on out-of-state travelers and short-term rentalswerelifted in early June. Delaware's reopening plan saysleisure 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 ofquarantine 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.
Face coverings are required on public transportation.
Hot weather and clear skies brought thousands of visitors to Rehoboth Beach on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Social distancing did not appear to be followed very strictly on either the beach or boardwalk, with mask usage also not universal.(Photo: Chuck Snyder/Special to Delaware News Journal)
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 for aone-way trip,due upon boarding, is $2, and an all-day daily pass is $4.20. Seven-daypasses also are available for $18, while a 30-day pass costs$65. For more information, go towww.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 forecast might put a damper on some people's beach plansunless the rain holds off. Forecasts can change as the weekend gets closer.
The National Weather Service forecast for Friday, Aug. 28,inRehoboth Beach is mostly sunny with a high near 87degrees. There is a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms in the evening.
Saturday will be mostly cloudy, windy and likely rainywith a high near 84degrees. There is a 60% chance of showers, mainly after 3 p.m. Patchy fog is expected in the morning, before 9 a.m.
Sunday should be a breezy, sunny day with a high near 80.
Water temperatures off the coast of Lewes are reaching thehigh 70s this week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As of Friday, Aug. 28, Delaware hasseen a total of 16,976 cases since the first case was detected in March, data shows.
Of those cases, 7,927have beenin New Castle County, the most populated county in the state. Another 6,208 have been detected in Sussex County.
The pandemic has been linked to the deaths of 604people in Delaware.So far, over 228,000 people have been tested statewide, and 9,101 people have recovered from the viral disease. As of Friday, Aug. 27, 57 people were hospitalized in Delaware, 15of whom were considered critical.
Contact reporter Maddy Lauria at (302) 345-0608,email@example.com or on Twitter @MaddyinMilford.
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Delaware beach guide: What you need to know for your late August trip - The News Journal