FORT MYERS BEACH — Fort Myers Beach will be requiring everyone to wear masks inside businesses starting on Thursday.
But the town will not be closing its beaches, or limiting parking ahead of the holiday weekend, and Mayor Ray Murphy says, that’s a mistake.
Murphy set the tone early at an emergency meeting of the Town Council Wednesday.
“Florida has been described as the epicenter now of the pandemic. That’s what they’re calling us," said Murphy.
Murphy is worried this weekend will be even more crowded than when the beaches first reopened earlier this year.
“From Palm Beach County, to Key West, to Collier County, to here, it’s the only beach that will be open," said Murphy.
Some Council members made the argument that, if you leave more parking open, people will spread out more. But Murphy didn’t agree.
“My idea was: Don’t give them places to park so they have nowhere to park, so then they won’t come," said Murphy.
We spoke with Bill Waichulis, the General Manager at one of the biggest hotels in Fort Myers Beach, the Pink Shell Resort, and he agreed with Murphy.
"I’m a proponent, close the public parking. You’ll reduce automatically the amount of people on the beach," said Waichulis.
But the public parking will not be closed, and Murphy says he’s afraid that buses of people could be on their way to Fort Myers Beach.
“We’re going to be inundated with people here this weekend. They’re going to be everywhere. People are going to be piled on top of each other. They already are. They’re piled on top of each other on the county pier, they’re piled on top of each other in the county park, and it will be up and down the island over the weekend. So God help us all," said Murphy.
The mask ordinance that the Town Council passed will require people to wear a mask inside businesses starting on Thursday, or you could face a $50 fine. And companies could face a $500 fine for not enforcing it. But Murphy says, he’s worried that won’t be enough to keep people safe.