Navarre Beach to fully reopen without time restrictions
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Navarre Beach will now be open without time restrictions and the pier will open for normal operation hours, with commissioners on Tuesday voting to extend the hours after health officials said local COVID-19 cases have dropped off significantly in the past several days.
Beginning Wednesday, the beach will be open 24/7 and the Navarre Beach Marine Park parking lot will be open from sunrise to sunset. The Navarre Beach Fishing Pier will open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., normal summer operating hours.
Beachgoers are still expected to practice social distancing measures, including standing six feet apart and not gathering in groups larger than 10 people.
The move to reopen the park comes 12 days after commissioners voted to re-open the beach from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. The five-hour window was meant to discourage visitors from out-of-state from visiting the area.
Sandy Park-O'Hara, executive director of Santa Rosa County's Department of Health, told commissioners Tuesday that positive coronavirus cases are decreasing throughout the county — about 2.56% of those tested in Santa Rosa County are currently testing positive, compared to about 5% statewide.
And the county's emergency management director, Brad Baker, said they were confident that hospitals had adequate capacity and supplies if another surge of coronavirus arises.
“All of our hospitals have plenty of capacity. They’re not seeing an influx of patients,” said Brad Baker, the county’s emergency management director. “Our flu-like symptoms are going down, our COVID symptoms are going down. … We do have plenty of PPE (personal protective equipment) on hand if a surge does come out.”
Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said since the beaches opened Friday, beachgoers have been practicing social distancing and deputies patrolling the beach haven’t seen any issues.
“The beach went very well. The first day we opened, there was slight traffic, because everybody wanted to get to the beach for the first time in a while. Compressing the time (from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m.) also makes it even worse for traffic getting on and off (the beach),” Johnson said. “Everybody on the beach was very cordial and kept their distance, everything went fine. With that many people on the beach for that many days, we haven’t made any arrest, which is pretty nice.”
U.S. 399, the road connecting Navarre Beach to Pensacola Beach and running along Gulf Islands National Seashore, is expected to reopen Wednesday.
The new beach hours will be effective at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Annie Blanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8632.