MARCO ISLAND — Between Monday and Tuesday, Collier County reported 37 new positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 268.
But despite the ongoing pandemic, Marco Island is reopening its beaches to the public, becoming the first locality in southwest Florida to do so.
It’s a controversial decision that divided City Council members. Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz doesn’t see a problem with opening the beaches.
“If they can go out and get fresh air and exercise in somewhat isolation with safe social distances, what is wrong with that?” said Brechnitz.
Brechnitz said the city’s policy right now may actually be doing more harm than good.
“Social distancing on the beach is easier than the sidewalks, and that’s where you’re going to push people," said Brechnitz.
The city’s new rule will open the beaches from sun up to sun down, but only to pedestrians. The parking lots will remain closed to limit visitors.
“There’s no place for the general public to park. Visitors are not welcome at this point in time," said Brechnitz.
We talked to Dean Rock, who lives in Marco Island. He thinks council is making the right call.
“People who are more vulnerable can still take the precautions, whereas those of us who want to move on with their lives and do things and get out, should be able to do that," said Rock.
But the council vote was split. Three of the members wanted to keep the beaches shut down.
“We’ve never had a pandemic. I think we ere to the conservative approach and just close them all. Easily enforced, easily done, it’s a shorter length of pain than prolonging it, and then going through this again every other week," said Council Member Sam Young.
Brechnitz said he understands those concerns, but he trusts the city to make sure people are staying safe.
“We have plenty of staff available to do this properly, and I have every confidence that the city manager will do that," said Brechnitz.
We also asked Brechnitz if he is worried that being the only beach open in southwest Florida might draw a lot of visitors. He said, with the lack of parking, he doesn’t think that will happen, but if it does, he said they can always close the beaches again.