COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — City officials at one of South Carolina’s most popular beaches knew visitors would return when they reopened during the coronavirus pandemic. They just didn’t think so many would come back at one time.
Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll said Saturday was the busiest day he has ever seen on his island in the Charleston area in his more than 60 years living there.
Traffic backed up all the way to the mainland. Police wrote 216 parking tickets as cars double and triple parked on many island streets with some violators telling officers the $50 ticket wasn’t a bad price for some sun and sand for a carload of people, officials said.
“Today was like the perfect storm. We’ve had an unprecedented pandemic over the last two months — a stay at home order. Now the beaches are open. People can come out. And they came out,” Carroll said at an emergency Isle of Palms City Council meeting Saturday night.
There have been more than 8,800 cases of the coronavirus confirmed in South Carolina, and at least 385 deaths, according to an update Saturday from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The Isle of Palms didn’t reconsider their order from more than a week ago to reopen the beach to sunbathers. Police Chief Kevin Cornett said most people on the sand and ocean stayed a safe distance apart in the COVID-19 world.
But they did decide to join other beaches in efforts to ask people to act responsibly next week over the Memorial Day weekend and beyond into the summer to prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases that might close the beaches again.
“If you abuse it, you’re going to lose it,” said Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey, who is organizing the efforts.
Other beaches across the state from Hilton Head Island to North Myrtle Beach reported a lot of visitors, but no major problems.
Officials on the Isle of Palms said they understood the need for sun and ocean after weeks of being cooped up, but asked people to spread out their trips to weekdays or later in the summer.
“The beach, it’s not going anywhere. So you don’t have to come this weekend. You don’t even have to come next weekend. It is still going to be there after that. Feel free to come any time,” Isle of Palms Police Chief Kevin Cornett said.