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The order was signed on Thursday and went into effect on Friday. One of the main provisions was to suspend “any local ordinance or order adopted or issued since March 1, 2020,” particularly with regard to any such orders that were related to coronavirus.
Many of those local ordinances were put in place by towns to close the beaches in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
In a statement to local news station WJCL, Josh Hildebrandt, director of public and governmental affairs, said that, yes, the beaches are now open.
“The Governor’s Executive Order suspends the enforcement of any local ordinance or order adopted or issued since March 1, 2020 that relates to COVID-19,” Hildebrandt said. “This Executive Order thus lifted any local ordinances or orders that had closed or restricted access to Georgia beaches.”
The measure appears to encourage exercise in an effort to make isolation and social distancing more tolerable.
However, the decision is potentially damaging to the many popular vacation destinations, such as Tybee Island and Glynn County, which could see more activity now that their closures have been reversed.
“We’re not prepared to open the beaches. We’re not prepared, we don’t have the resources needed to implement to make sure that people are standing 6 feet apart,” Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions said in a statement.
“The governor’s office did reach out and let us know that they would be able to provide Georgia State patrol, DNR [Department of Natural Resources] patrols, anything that would be needed to help control the crowds.”
“I contacted the DNR Commissioner early this AM to understand the matter,” state Rep. Jesse Petrea said in a Facebook post. “He explained that it would allow exercise on the beach by individuals/family groups but NO congregating.”
“Moreover, he explained that Rangers were to be patrolling the beach to enforce strict social distancing.”
As of Saturday afternoon, Georgia had 6,160 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 201 deaths.
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