Island Beach State Park sign

A sign at the entrance to Island Beach State Park in New Jersey warned beachgoers to separate themselves by at least 6 feet on May 2, the day state parks reopened.

— AP Photo/Wayne Parry

Many Americans are thinking about heading to the beach for the Memorial Day weekend. They should think twice about that decision.

Beaches up and down the East Coast reopened this weekend, although with social-distance guidance coming from state and local officials.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is letting individual shore towns decide whether to reopen beaches. His guidance directed them to set occupancy limits, require 6 feet of space between beachgoers except family members or couples, and prohibit groups of 10 or more from congregating on the beach.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan reopened state beaches for walking and exercise. He also let shore towns decide whether to reopen beaches, and the resort town of Ocean City, Maryland, reopened to the general public with social distancing and gathering limitations in place and lifeguards on duty for swimming.

In Delaware, Gov. John Carney announced beaches would be allowed to open in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

Those in the Philadelphia area are especially tempted with the beaches in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland so nearby and now reopen.

Don’t go.

It is also not a good idea to host a cookout unless it’s with members of your immediate household. Those who are elderly and have pre-existing health conditions should especially take heed of the advice from Gov. Tom Wolf, who has taken a dim view of beach-going while the virus is spreading.

“I wouldn’t go to the beach,” Wolf said Monday at a video news conference in response to a question about whether he was concerned that beach-going would create a rise in coronavirus cases in the Philadelphia region. “There are people there who aren’t wearing masks and you’re putting yourself at risk. I wouldn’t do that, I haven’t done that, and I’m not sure why the governors of Maryland and New Jersey have opened their beaches, but they have.”

Wolf is right.

Yes, businesses, restaurants and beaches are reopening.

Wolf has begun relaxing social distancing and business closure guidelines, with more than half of the state’s 67 counties currently in the “yellow” zone that permits some businesses to operate.

But there is still a coronavirus outbreak.

Pennsylvania’s death toll from the COVID-19 outbreak has passed 4,500 and about 63,000 people have been infected, the state Health Department said Monday.

Studies show that being outdoors is safer than indoors. But beaches, especially during the holidays, are often very crowded, which increases the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

If you insist on going to the beach, it is critical to follow public health guidance, practice social distancing and stay safe.

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