As of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Cameron County parks, beaches and boat ramps are open again, though with restrictions.
County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. announced the easing of restrictions, which were implemented weeks ago to slow the spread of COVID-19, at a press conference on Friday. He said the reopening of beaches is being done in coordination with the mayor and city council of South Padre Island. Parking lots at pedestrian-only beach parks such as Isla Blanca or E.K. Atwood will be limited to 50 percent capacity, while drive-on beaches will require at least 20 feet between vehicles, Treviño said.
Social distancing must be practiced and everyone at the beach must wear a mask or facial covering, though they are not required in the water, he said. Watercraft for fishing may have a maximum of two occupants, or four occupants if members of the same household, and everyone has to wear a mask or facial covering. Charter fishing boats 18 feet or smaller may contain a guide and one client. Boats 22-26 feet in length may contain a guide and two clients. Treviño noted that the rules for boats between 18 and 22 feet need clarification.
On boats as well, masks or facial coverings must be worn, he said. Cleaning fish at docks or filet tables will not be allowed since Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines can’t be enforced. When launching or driving boats at boat ramps, at least one vehicle length must be maintained between vehicles. Social distancing at boat ramps is required and Treviño asked that visitors be respectful toward each other.
All parks will close at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., depending on the park. Complete details will be available on the Cameron County website, Treviño said, adding that a violation of any of the restrictions governing the soft reopenings will constitute a state offense.
“If we see that the numbers begin to escalate as a result of the lessening of these restrictions, then we’ll have no choice but to re-implement these earlier restrictions in order to make sure that these (covid-19) numbers do not get away from us,” he said.
The county has also relaxed restrictions on the number of people allowed to ride together in the same vehicle. Before it was limited to two with both wearing masks or facial coverings. Now there is no limit, though everyone must wear facial coverings, family or not, if there is more than one person in the vehicle.