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New plan announced to reduce crowds in Volusia County after large gatherings

Patrols to be stepped up next weekend

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – After back-to-back weekends of massive gatherings in the Volusia County area, Daytona Beach officials say they’re taking measures to reduce crowd congestion.

“With area attractions still closed or limiting the number of attendees, we realize beaches are a popular destination. We want beachgoers to come, enjoy Daytona Beach’s beautiful beach and still adhere to the recommended guidelines for social distancing,” Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry said in a news release.

Measures provided by the city include:

  • During peak hours and as conditions warrant, travel lanes on State Road A1A will be restricted for cars exiting at beach ramps. Daytona Beach police units will direct motorists either northbound or southbound on A1A or across the bridge, depending on the location.
  • Temporary fencing has been placed along the sidewalks on both sides of A1A to protect pedestrians and to discourage pedestrians from entering traffic lanes. Pedestrians are encouraged to use the established crosswalks at intersections.
  • Foot traffic will be limited in the city’s bandshell and boardwalk area.
  • Signage encouraging social distancing will be posted throughout the area.

Over the weekend, more than 200 people gathered on A1A around the same time an “Orlando Invades Daytona” event was scheduled to take place.

During the weekend before that, large block parties took place in the DeLand area and video released by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office showing deputies breaking up the gatherings caused some backlash.

Another event was planned for June 6 but after discussions with local leaders, the organizer chose to postpone.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said visitors are always welcome to the area as long as they obey local laws.

Even with the event postponed, he said they plan to step up patrols.

“If you come in a lawful manner, respect our community, you’re gonna have no problems. But if you come here to wreak havoc and commit deviltry then I can’t tell you what’s going to happen because there’s going to be an inordinate amount of police officers not only in Daytona Beach, but throughout Volusia County,” Chitwood said.

Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri also noted that the gunmen wanted in connection with a shooting at the time of the planned “Orlando invades Daytona” event have been identified and will be arrested.

A man accused of blocking traffic during the event has also been identified and will face a misdemeanor charge.

“At the time, there was a huge crowd there. We’re trained in techniques as law enforcement officers not to escalate situations but to deescalate. There was no need to run in there and make an arrest on a misdemeanor with a crowd that big,” Capri said.

The chief said he also canceled a big event that was scheduled for Friday night.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention is urging all residents to avoid mass gatherings and practice social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We are all ready for a big party but now it not the time,” Councilwoman Barbara Girtman said. “We have to respect our local residents, our CDC guidelines regarding social distancing and large gatherings. While this situation is improving, we’re still in the middle of a public health emergency.”

Also on Friday, local leaders announced that Volusia County is entering the second phase of its reopening process.

That includes allowing visitors at libraries and other government buildings and opening summer camps back up.