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Collier County votes to open beaches; residents promise to follow social distancing guidelines

Come Thursday morning at sunrise, the closed gates will open and you’ll be able to park your car and head down to the beach in Collier County.

The county says, for now, the beaches will close at sunset as long as people practice social distancing on the shorelines.

“We said the pledge. Did it say ‘protection from viruses for all or liberty and justice for all?'”

Opinions were voiced and heard as people armed with signs filled seats at the county commission meeting Tuesday. One person even used shoe polish to deliver a special message about reopening Collier.

“We need to protect our liberties and our liberties have been taken away here.”

Now, the gates will come down at county beaches Thursday and some hope it’s a sign that life’s getting back to normal.

“We have discharged 92 COVID positive patients back to their homes,” said a spokesperson for NCH.

Still, the vote to reopen beaches was a close one: 3-2.

“Why would you want to create an attraction for a hot spot when their beaches are closed and you open yours?”

A concern for some like Commissioner Penny Taylor, who remembers the packed beaches like on South Marco right before the closure.

”I think we put our residents at risk,” she said. “If we can manage our safety at Publix or Walmart, we can certainly manage our safety at a beach or park.”

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said making sure only people living in Collier use the beaches would be difficult.

“I think the question of enforcement relative to all of this is going down a very slippery slope with regards to the constitution,” he said.

However, those at the meeting promise to stay six feet apart on the sand.

“We do have this under control. We are going to take this very seriously.”

As for Naples, we will find out on Wednesday when they hold a special meeting. The city’s looking at a three-tiered approach, starting with opening beaches and parks with restrictions.

They will continue to loosen the rules if COVID-19 cases continue to decline.

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Briana Harvath
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