TITUSVILLE, Fla. – One of the most popular places to view rocket launches on the Space Coast will once again be open to pedestrian traffic this weekend despite concerns that spectators ignored social distancing guidelines during the scrubbed launch attempt earlier this week.
Florida Today photographer Tim Shortt captured an image of crowds filling the sidewalks and both lanes of traffic on the A. Max Brewer bridge Wednesday.
“It was unbelievable,” said George Ziegler, who could see the large number of spectators on the bridge from his boat on the Indian River. “It definitely wasn’t social distancing.”
A Titusville Police Department spokesperson acknowledged that launch spectators were not abiding by social distancing guidelines.
“No. No they weren’t,” Lt. Tyler Wright said Thursday.
Yet despite the police officer's observation and discussions between the police department and city manager's office to potentially close the bridge to foot traffic, Titusville city leaders indicated Friday that the bridge would remain open to spectators.
The police department will close the bridge to vehicle traffic for one hour after the launch to allow pedestrians to safely cross the road.
“As we are all mindful of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we will continue to encourage all launch viewers to observe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing recommendations,” the department said in a statement.
Local leaders have not indicated what measures the city will be taking, if any, to ensure spectators on the bridge are following CDC guidelines.
Decals on the floor of the Titusville Police Department lobby instruct visitors to remain 6 feet apart.
Only five citizens are allowed inside Titusville City Hall at any one time to minimize the spread of COVID-19, signs inside the government building indicate. Those visitors must wear masks and are required to sanitize their hands before entering.
Police department spokesperson Amy Matthews did not respond to questions from News 6 inquiring why the bridge will be kept open to launch spectators in light of the agency's prior observation of people gathering too close together.
News 6 sent two emails and left a voicemail for Titusville City Manager Scott Larse but received no response.
Titusville Mayor Walt Johnson did not respond to two emails and a phone message left at City Hall asking if he had concerns about the crowds on the bridge.
Fellow Titusville City Council members Dan Diesel, Sarah Stoeckel, Robert Jordan and Jo Lynn Nelson also did not respond to multiple emails from News 6 inquiring about crowds on the bridge.