Va. Beach to reopen beaches Friday, with restrictions
Governor also announces mortgage, rent resources
The oceanfront at Virginia Beach will reopen this Friday for recreational activity, Gov. Ralph Northam announced during his coronavirus news conference Monday.
Approved activities include sunbathing, swimming, fishing and surfing, he said, but will not include group sports, alcohol consumption, grouping umbrellas or the use of audio speakers or tents. Parking will be capped at 50% capacity. Beach ambassadors will monitor compliance with the rules.
Only the city of Virginia Beach’s shores, plus the First Landing State Park at Fort Henry, will be opened Friday, the governor said.
“Let me be clear: These rules must be followed,” Northam said. “If people swarm the beaches, ignore social distancing rules, or the regulations the city has put into place, I will not hesitate to reinstate Phase One restrictions, or even close the beach outright, if necessary. My message to Virginians is this — and it’s very simple: You must be responsible.”
Reopening the beaches will require a coordinated effort focused on cleaning high-touch surfaces, ensuring physical distancing and enforcing regulations, Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer added during the conference. “We have an opportunity to provide that safe outdoor space on one of the widest beaches on the East Coast — Virginia Beach,” Dyer said. “I believe we have a great plan, and I’m prepared to stand by this plan. We must not take this opportunity for granted, and everyone needs to be committed to being safe and proactive while visiting the beaches.”
Dyer said that approximately 150 people will serve as beach ambassadors to monitor social distancing and ask people not to congregate on the beaches. Northam added during the news conference that other communities with beaches should follow Virginia Beach’s model.
“By having people come to our beautiful beaches, it’s healthy,” Dyer said. “It’s good emotionally for people to come to the beach. The sunshine is good for them.”
Over the weekend, as restaurants and businesses reopened as part of Phase One, Virginia Beach’s Oceanfront was busy, despite a restriction on all activity besides fishing and exercise.
Also announced during Northam’s news briefing Monday: State Coordinator of Emergency Management Jeffrey Stern will be leaving the Virginia Department of Emergency Management after six years in June to join the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as superintendent of its Emergency Management Institute in Maryland. Northam has not yet named a replacement for Stern.
Northam also announced the creation of a new state website, stayhomevirginia.com, dedicated to providing resources for people who may face eviction during the pandemic. Some Virginia courts began opening Monday, including some eviction proceedings, after being closed for all cases except emergencies. “Today also marks the first day that some of our courts are reopening to hear cases,” Northam said. “Unfortunately, this also means some eviction proceedings may move forward.”
The Northam administration is working with the Virginia Housing Development Authority to provide 3-month mortgage deferrals for people facing coronavirus-related economic hardship. Landlords who receive a mortgage deferral are required to pass it on to their tenants, Northam said.
Virginia Housing has committed $12 million in funding that will go to more than 200 Virginia nonprofit housing organizations to continue housing support programs, the governor said. Tenants can still receive a 60-day eviction deferral if they can show they lost wages due to COVID-19.
“We are already pushing the federal government to include additional rent relief funding in the next stimulus package,” Northam said.