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July Fourth vacation concerns could result in mask mandates or beaches closing

Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year so, in addition to weekend beach trips, many could flock to Southwest Florida beaches for holiday travel. This is a concern for locals of the region’s beach communities and for city and county officials.

Penny Taylor, Collier County commissioner, said, “People love to go to the [beach for] July fourth. They start lining up.”

Larry Wentz of Naples agrees that people are already starting to come in for the holiday this weekend. “I was out here yesterday, and it looked to me like they’re already coming over,” he said.

Another Naples resident, Heidi Tublertson, has also noticed the large number of people coming in. “Cars just coming in caravans. They were parked all over the place. It was awful,” she said.

So with all of these visitors from out of town, many locals are wondering if the beaches in Naples and Collier County will shut down again or not.

Naples Mayor Tereasa Heitmann said she’s been getting “numerous calls asking the beaches get shut down.”

But Heitmann is hoping she doesn’t have to. “I’m really hoping that is something we don’t have to mandate and that the community will be careful and protect one another by wearing a mask,” she said.

Wentz doesn’t want to see the beaches close either. “Yes, I love the beach. I come here four or five times a week, and I don’t like seeing the beach closed, but this may be necessary,” he said.

Because he believes that if they don’t close the beaches, the numbers will get ridiculous. “I think if they leave it open this weekend, it will get very crowded,” Wentz said.

So far, Collier County is weighing its options and will have a meeting regarding the beaches Tuesday morning. “We live in these extraordinary times … Extraordinary times take extraordinary measures. If we leave the beach open in the morning, people can go in the morning,” Commissioner Taylor said .

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Drew Hill
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