Volusia County officials urge beach safety ahead of Memorial Day weekend
84 people were rescued on Thursday, officials said.
VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Volusia County officials held a news conference Friday at the Emergency Operations Center and covered updates in regards to COVID-19, including those related to Volusia County beaches for the holiday weekend.
“Expect this weekend to be even busier,” officials said.
With 47 miles of beach, officials are urging beach-goers to stay in a group of six or less.
Officials also stressed the importance of beach safety during the holiday weekend.
“Swim in front of a staffed lifeguard tower,” officials said.
The beach patrol is warning visitors strong rip currents are expected to last throughout the weekend.
"You could just see the rip current," said Lindsey Marshall, who lives in Daytona Beach. "I was like wow! We should probably stay in the shallow part."
"It is pretty strong," said Madison Marklow, who was visiting from Ormond Beach. "You get in there past your knees, you can feel it pulling on you."
Captain Tammy Malphurs with The Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue team says rip current conditions are expected to last through the holiday weekend.
“We’re fully staffed, it’s all hands on deck,” said Malphurs.
She reports more than 130 people had to be rescued from the strong ocean rip current the past 2 days alone.
"We have extremely hazardous rip current conditions right now," said Malphurs. "We expect that throughout the whole weekend. We are flying the red flag. So just help us help you. We want everyone to go home safely."
The captain is encouraging beach visitors to only enter the water near the manned lifeguard towers.
And while the beaches are open, the captain confirms parking capacity on the beach will be limited, and cars will have to be spaced out to follow social distancing guidelines.
To help with that, markers have been set up along the beach to show where people can park.
Malphurs says those who try to squeeze in will be asked to move or issued a citation.
"We do need people to help us and be responsible," said Malphurs. "Social distance so we don't have to take time away from the water to do that."
The captain says they are encouraging visitors to stay 10 feet apart while visiting the beach.
Those visiting Daytona Beach Friday afternoon didn't seem to mind the added restrictions.
“It is great, it is great, I feel safe,” said Annette Bolcarovic, who was visiting Daytona Beach from Ocala. “I like distancing.”
“I just like it that it’s spread out,” said Daytona Beach resident Richard Fraley. “People are actually paying attention, and doing the social distancing. There’s a couple of people that park in the middle, but beach guys tell them to move along.”
Malphurs confirms they will have eyes both on the ground and in the skies watching.
“We will be driving back and forth, we’ll be making announcements,” said Malphurs. “We’ll be enforcing parking and social distancing. And we’ll have a drone that will be monitoring crowds all weekend.”
[TIMELINE: The spread of coronavirus in Florida]
As of Friday morning, The Florida Department of Health reported 640 cases of COVID-19 in Volusia County.
County officials said that there have been around seven new cases a day for the last 14 days.
Officials also report that there are 131 patients in the hospital recovering from the illness.
Volusia County has had 36 deaths related to the coronavirus since the disease was detected in the state on March 1.
According to county officials, 64% of the deaths are from long-term care facilities.
Rewatch the news conference from Volusia Couty below.
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