ATLANTIC BEACH — Precautionary efforts to stop the coronavirus outbreak continue to mount, as town officials are trying to discourage out-of-town visitors from coming.
Town staff issued a release Monday, announcing additional restrictions put in place to “flatten the curve with regards to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Officials say those who “live, work or own property in Atlantic Beach” may come to town but “if you are a visitor or tourist, you should stay away.”
“We sincerely request the public’s awareness and cooperation,” town officials said in the announcement. “We must act decisively in order to manage the spread of the virus. We hope to welcome visitors back to Atlantic Beach soon.”
A state of emergency was declared in Atlantic Beach March 19. As of Monday, the following conditions are in effect in town:
- All restaurants are closed for dining, except for takeout orders.
- All bars are closed.
- All public beach accesses are closed.
- Atlantic Beach Community Park is closed.
- All beach public parking lots are closed.
- All public restroom facilities are closed.
- The Circle is closed.
- Fort Macon State Park is closed.
- Social gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited anywhere in Atlantic Beach.
- Social distancing of at least 6 feet should be maintained during all gatherings and in all retail and other business environments.
- All vacation and hotel management companies are urged to refuse reservations to leisure travelers until Monday, April 6.
The town council discussed its response to the coronavirus outbreak at the regular council meeting Monday. The council met in the town hall boardroom, with Councilman Harry Archer absent. Seating was limited, with chairs spread out to provide distance between those in attendance. Outside of town officials and the media, only two residents attended the meeting.
During the meeting, the council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing electronic meetings for town officials and advisory boards. The resolution allows this alternative only during a state of emergency.
Town attorney Derek Taylor said the idea behind the resolution is to give officials an alternative to canceling meetings.
“To do this you’ll need to improve your technology so you can receive public comments,” he said.
Town Manager David Walker also went over the preventative measures and closures in place with the council.
“We’ll be marking off and taping off The Circle to vehicular traffic, and our parking lots with wooden walkways,” Mr. Walker said, referring to the beachfront district in town located directly south of the Fort Macon Road/Atlantic Beach Causeway intersection and including the surrounding neighborhoods.
Mr. Walker said while vehicular thru-traffic wouldn’t be prevented, signs would be set up at the town entrances to state that The Circle beach accesses are closed.
Councilman M.J. Forrest expressed concern about saying Atlantic Beach is “closed” in any way.
“We’re setting ourselves up for public criticism,” he said.
Councilman Austin Waters, meanwhile, said he thinks they should “err on the side of caution” to discourage visitation, and should use the term closed.
“I think you’re going to get criticism whichever way you go,” he said.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.