FORT MYERS BEACH — Lee Health is putting out a warning about COVID-19 ahead of the holiday weekend.
The hospital system is encouraging people to keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing, so we don’t see another spike like we did after the 4th of July.
On Friday at Fort Myers Bech, it felt like the calm before the storm. The beaches were still relatively empty ahead of the holiday weekend, but when the crowds do come, Matt Bryan says he won’t be worried about COVID-19.
“We wouldn’t have came down if we was worried about it. We feel like it’s not any different here than it is anywhere else," said Bryan, who is visiting Fort Myers Beach from Kentucky.
On the 4th of July, people packed onto Fort Myers Beach, but we spoke to David Tezak, who rents houses there. He says, this time around, he doesn’t think it will be that bad.
“I kind of don’t see it being as crowded as it was over the 4th of July weekend, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that school’s back in, and September’s always, for the most part, kind of the slowest month," said Tezak.
But despite the beaches not looking too bad right now, Lee Health is asking people not to let their guard down.
"The worst outbreak of COVID-19 in our region immediately followed the 4th of July holiday. Lee Health was treating over 300 patients in our hospitals, and we experienced volumes that would be typical for seasonal months, not the summer," said Lee Health COO, Dr. Steve Nygaard.
Some communities in Southwest Florida are taking further measures to make sure people follow the rules. The City of Marco Island is charging people $200 if they aren’t social distancing properly.
“We want to enforce the rules on the beach, and during this pandemic, we have ratcheted up the fine schedule somewhat to ensure that that happens," said Marco Island City Manager Michael McNees.
But for the people already hitting the beach, they say months of living through a pandemic has taught people what to do.
“I think it’s going to be fine. I think if people just stick to the plan that we’ve been on, I think everybody will be fine," said Tezak.
“I mean we just use good social distance practicing. You know, not anything different than anyone normally would do. Just good hygiene, you should be good to go," said Bryan.
Another important reminder is, if you plan to head to Fort Myers Beach, bring your mask along, because the town is still requiring them inside buildings, and even outdoors if you can’t keep 6 feet of distance.