Families hope for short beach escape as COVID clouds Memorial Day weekend

Maryland's Sandy Point State Park is among the destinations beach-goers visited at the start of this unusual Memorial Day weekend (FOX 5 DC / Stephanie Ramirez)

Families trickled into Maryland's Sandy Point State Park early Saturday as part of the wave of travelers expected to hit shorelines this holiday weekend.

One of those who came early with loved ones was Izanet Ortega.

“We’re trying to enjoy and not think about what’s happening around because everything you do is just about COVID-19,” Ortega said.

Saturday was an escape for Ortega, even if those around her were wearing face shields. Some with her also donned masks.

“It feels better than being inside at home, that’s for sure. I prefer being here," Ortega said. "Well at least not in the water yet, but a little more clean air because I’m tired of being at home."

By 8 a.m., at least one couple was already on the beach sunbathing as two young children splashed in the Chesapeake Bay’s soft waves.

The mother of those children asked FOX 5 DC not show her face but still spoke with us.

She said up until today, their respites from the coronavirus lockdown has been their front yard or car rides.

“The kids haven’t been anywhere other than our front yard since March 16th. So this is our first time actually being able to be outside, able to run and scream and play and in the sunshine too,” said the mother.

“It’s really cold! But I like it!” the six-year-old screamed running into the water.

“It means a lot,” said the mother watching her kids, “But safely, right? I mean, masks and six feet. I told the kids before they got here, you guys have to stay six feet away from everybody.”

The gates to Sandy Point State Park opened at 7 a.m. Saturday.

Many boaters also entered the park then. Those manning the toll booths wore face shields and masks. They also used a trash dustpan to reach out toward visitors and collect.

Unlike the normal visitor volume during summer season, FOX 5 did not witness an immediate line of cars to enter the park, even into the late morning.

Still, state park Rangers said they expected to see volume pick up throughout the day. Park Rangers, Maryland DNR Police and Maryland State Troopers are patrolling.

Some of the families FOX 5 DC spoke with said they were from Virginia and DC.

The University of Maryland’s Maryland Transportation Institute is expecting hundreds of thousands of travelers to head toward the beaches especially this Memorial Day weekend, even if many COVID-19 restrictions are still in place.

MTI researchers found last weekend, starting last Friday when parts of Maryland reopened, an additional 300,000 travelers from the DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland areas traveled to reopened parts of Maryland.

A majority of those travelers were seen in Worcester County: home to Ocean City, Maryland.


Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and the Outer Banks beaches: what’s open and what’s not

Dr. Birx asking CDC to investigate 3 coronavirus hotspots: LA, Chicago, DC