Wellfleet Health Agent Wants Beachgoers to Stay Safe And Have Fun This Summer | WCAI

Wellfleet Health Agent Wants Beachgoers to Stay Safe And Have Fun This Summer

May 21, 2020

The unofficial start of summer—Memorial Day weekend—is right around the corner, and beaches across Massachusetts will open Monday of the holiday weekend.  Governor Charlie Baker issued guidelines for cities and towns this week that include having beachgoers wear masks when not social distancing, and placing groups 12 feet apart on the sand.

 WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Wellfleet Health Agent Hillary Greenberg-Lemos about these guidelines, and how her town can enforce them.   

Greenberg-Lemos So, everything in his document is a guideline. And, I think that it gives us a starting place to get folks out and able to recreate. So, I think it's helpful because, at least we know where the state is coming from. And, it sort of levels the playing field from community to community if we're all on the same wavelength about what we're going to do.

Eident Now that we have the governor's guidelines, will you be stricter in your town as we head toward opening day for beaches on Memorial Day?

Greenberg-Lemos I think we are worried locally about the size of gatherings that we get on the beach, and the number of people that we're going to get coming to the beaches. So, I think we will be looking at a way to sort of combat having too many people on the beach. We also know that our beaches are vast and we know that abutting our town beaches, are national seashore beaches. So, we're still in conversations about how exactly we're going to regulate it. We do have our beach administrator working on it as wel--pretty much nonstop. So, I think we're going to do what we can to get people to the beach in a safe manner.

Eident How about enforcing whatever you do come up with? WCAI talked with Wendy Northcross of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and she said that at least from her vantage point, she thinks it will largely be up to individuals to sort of self-police when it comes to enforcing beach regulations.

Greenberg-Lemos That's interesting, because, self-policing—yes. However, enforcement does fall to the local board of health. That was clear in the Governor's reopening guidelines that all enforcement falls to the local board of health or the state's Department of Labor Services. So, any complaint that comes in, we will have to follow up on. And, we get complaints in now, [and] I can imagine we will get a number of complaints in the summer. We don't usually do enforcement on the beach. We do a lot of other enforcement. And, you know, I guess the first step is going to be to educate and bring people to compliance. So, we may just go to the beach one day and stand there and educate folks that need educating, distribute facemasks if they don't have them, and sort of take a look and see what's going on and then we'll devise a better plan if it's needed.

Eident The Governor hasn't come up with guidelines just yet for hotels in short-term rentals. What are you looking for from Governor Charlie Baker in terms of guidance for rentals and hotels?

Greenberg-Lemos I hope he's going to tell us if and when short-term rentals can open up again, because that is a big question. And also here in Wellfleet, we currently don't have any type of rental registration program. So, we truly don't even know how many units are rented here in the summer or year-round. The Board of Health is moving forward with looking at some regulation over the next couple weeks to get something in place. I don't know if we will be able to accomplish that by the time the governor lifts any type of short-term rental [ban]. So, it should be interesting. We've got a lot of work ahead of us, and not a lot of time.

Eident Do you have any specific advice for listeners? I mean, we're all thinking about how we will go out and go to places like the beach, but there are a lot of different considerations I think a lot of people are now trying to make.

Greenberg-Lemos I just think be vigilant. Obviously, we want folks to wash their hands as frequently as possible, wear their face masks when they're out in public. Continue social distancing. And, remember that we need to have fun also and that, you know, life is short. So, let's get out there. Let's enjoy the resources we have and do it smartly.

Eident Hilary, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

Greenberg-Lemos Thank you. Have a good day.

This transcript was edited lightly for grammar and clarity.