What happens to summer? How US beaches are handling reopening in COVID-19 pandemic

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, coastal states from New Jersey to California are reopening their beaches with restrictions, but social distancing rules may make it difficult.
7:44 | 05/16/20

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Transcript for What happens to summer? How US beaches are handling reopening in COVID-19 pandemic
Surfing is water therapy. You're connecting with the ocean. You can leave all the stresses of your day to day life on the shore and then just go out. Reporter: It's been almost two months since pro surfer cassie has caught a wave at her favorite breaks. I'm so excited to get back into the water. Reporter: The first paddles into the surf, producing whelps of excitement. Yeah! So happy to be back in the water. Reporter: Closures around the state had strictly prohibited public access to this iconic Having the beaches shut down has been really hard, as a surfer and someone who activates myself in all that I do from the ocean, it's been difficult. Reporter: After months of being cooped up at home, millions of Americans are likely feeling the same way, eager to venture into the outdoors again ahead of memorial day weekend. But exposure to the sun is no longer one of the big worries. Nationwide, restrictions preventing beachgoers vary state by state, even county by counties. Many requiring face masks and abandoning towels, coolers and umbrellas. Governors across the country agreeing to start opening beaches. We've been noticing a bit of a trend. Covid positive individuals has decreased by 21%. Reporter: Florida was one of the first states to open in early may after hosting hordes of spring breakers back in March. But issues of overcrowding caused some cities like Naples to close, reopen and close shore shores begin. I am a 51-year-old woman. I don't need the government telling me how to be healthy. Reporter: Naples' beaches are back open with various restrictions. Keeping up and enforcing guidelines is a looming challenge for those tasked with protecting us, like lifeguard specialist Pono Barnes. We've never closed the beaches like though. There's no playbook. Reporter: His unit covers 72 miles of coastline, making sure that families like the ciphers can stay safe in the surf. It's the first day it's open. As you can see, they couldn't be more thrilled. Especially with school being shut down. Reporter: But on the first day of opening, a learning curve. Despite a requirement for face coverings, we didn't see many. What do you feel about the whole mask/not mask thing? I think it's good when you're in crowds at a grocery store or things like that. I don't feel much of a need of it here compared with going to trader Joe's earlier today. Reporter: What if there's a drowning, someone gets pulled off the beach? We have masks, gowns, whether if it's attending to cpr, we do everything we normally would do with extra protection. Reporter: For cape may, tourism has been the lifeblood of the community. County residents like 71-year-old bill green hoping to preserve it as one of the oldest vacation destinations. The impact on shore communities is significant. There's no question about that. It's a town that thrives on tourism. And we haven't had tourism since March. Reporter: This morning, the retired professor hit the boardwalk, passing out ppe and educational pamphlets as a social distancing ambassador, part of a new county health initiative called six feet saves. Megan Santiago and liberty cos is responsible for the campaign. If we can prevent it and help our local hospitals out that way and help our nurses and doctors who are on the front lines. Be being a resident of a shore town, you have to be resilient. I'm very confident we'll be able to pull through this. Reporter: In a typical year, they draw more than 10 million visitors. The economic drivers. If you can safely reopen that beach and get people spending money in the beach bars, at the restaurants and boardwalk is one way for the economy to kick off with the bonus that everyone's having a great time. Reporter: Uncertainty about the safety of travel could mean more beachgoeres. It feels very intimidating to step outside your comfort zone, but we have seen that online a lot of the searches about travel right now are saying, when will it be safe to travel? How can I travel safely? What that means is by choice or by necessity, more Americans than ever will be heading to local beaches. Reporter: According to aaa, online bookings have been rising, though modestly since mid April, suggesting travelers' confidence is slowly improving, but domestic flights have plunged almost 70% since last year, and this week seven out of ten hotel rooms across the country are vacant. All of this has devastated Hawaii's tourism industry. Waikiki is normally bustling with travelers to see waikiki now, it's a ghost town. There's no one on the beaches, the sidewalks, shops, hotels are boarded up. My hotel is board up. It's just such an extreme difference from the normal waikiki that we know. Reporter: Wendy Perez has worked at this resort for 31 years. The once thriving strip she's come to know so well now desolate. The tourism industry here has come to a screeching halt. Our first and foremost concern was for my family and myself. But I'm also taking care of my 85-year-old father, and he's in the high risk group. Reporter: She's now one of the more than 200,000 people applying for unemployment. Nearly a third of Hawaii's total workforce. You're mainly worried about your da to day bills. Month to month bills. Reporter: So many can't afford to cover the bills, and many in the hours-long food lines worried about where the next meal will come from. I am eager to come back, but a lot of people are eager to make sure that health and safety is first and foremost before we go back to work. We have a lot of visitors from all over the world. So we want to make sure that, you know, our health is going to be taken care of. Reporter: From waikiki to the breaks of malibu, returning to the healing powers of the ocean will provide everything they need, but it's a start. Our thanks to Matt.

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