CHARLOTTE COUNTY — Charlotte County saw thousands of people hit the beach on Monday.
It was the first day beaches were back open to the public, but the crowd was much larger than the county expected. Just to the north in Sarasota County, they didn’t open parking lots, so a lot of people packed up their beach umbrellas, and headed south.
“We came down here because we could go to the beach, and we could park our car," said Bob Wilson, who made the trip down from Sarasota County.
“If Sarasota was open, it would take a lot of these people and spread them out even further apart, which would help us all," said Wilson.
But Sarasota isn’t open, meaning Englewood Beach was packed.
“Unfortunately I was anticipating something similar to this when I learned that Sarasota County was not going to open their parking lots," said Bill Truex, the Chair of the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners.
Truex said the county is doing its best to still keep people safe.
“We again need people to remind themselves to socially separate, continue to use hand-sanitizer, and again folks, if you’re not comfortable coming out here, don’t come out," said Truex.
But talking to the people out on the beach, and the virus was the last thing on their mind.
“I haven’t been worried at all. I’m not a worrier. I’ve watched the numbers and they don’t scare me," said Debra Youngblood, who lives in Englewood.
“I’m pretty darn sure there’s no germs down here at all," said Sheryl Simons, who traveled down from Sarasota County.
Moving forward, Truex said they’re going to continue to monitor the crowds, but he also recognizes having thousands of people in one place during a pandemic is controversial.
“I know there’s people that don’t agree with us opening beaches up, don’t agree with businesses getting back to work, but I tell you, as we do this and we implement this, if you’re afraid, stay home," said Truex.
But a lot of people aren’t staying home, and that could be a problem for Charlotte County moving forward, because they still haven’t opened bathrooms up yet. Truex said the county needs to get staff in place to clean them before that can happen.