East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc issued a warning that the town may have to start shutting off the flow of beachgoers onto the beach at some locations, due to the need for social distancing in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.
New York State has mandated that beach capacity must be kept at 50 % or less to stop the spread of the virus.
That is something Southampton Town has already done several times this season.
Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said Thursday that foot traffic onto Flying Point Beach in Water MIll has been halted six times already this season. The chief said his department relies on “lifeguard observations, police observations, and aerial observations.” So far this season, it is only on weekend days that beach traffic has had to be diverted.
Those aerial observations police and code enforcement rely on are via high quality imaging from drones the town is now deploying. Other beaches the town has had to divert people away from include Sagg Main Beach in Sagaponack, three times thus far this season, as well as once each for Mecox Beach in Water Mill, Long Beach in Sag Harbor, and Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays.
“We look for spacing on the beach, the distance between blankets.” When it becomes apparent, Chief Skrynecki said, that a beachgoer will have to walk a long distance before reaching a spot where they can practice social distancing, that is a good time to start diverting traffic away from that beach.
“The public has been very cooperative,” the chief said, adding that when a beachgoer has to be turned away, if the officer or lifeguard knows of another beach where there is more room, they will suggest it.
The most crowded times at the beach tend to be around noon, Skrynecki said.
The East Hampton supervisor warned in a press release on Thursday, “Expect beach closures, particularly on weekends, as popular ocean beaches such as Indian Wells and Atlantic Avenue beaches in Amagansett, and Ditch Plains in Montauk, reach capacity.”