Changing tides: As COVID-19 positivity rates decrease, county beaches reopen

Beachgoers on Isla Blanca Park’s mile of beach on Sept. 8. Photo by Gaige Davila.

By Gaige Davila
editor@portisabelsouthpadre.com

Cameron County beach accesses and beach parks reopened this past Tuesday, as Texas sees its COVID-19 positivity rate dipping below 10 percent for the first time since late June. 

Anglers fish from Isla Blanca Park’s jetties on Sept. 8. Photo by Gaige Davila.

On Sept. 8, families and anglers came to the reopened Isla Blanca park, distancing themselves from others on the mile of beach between the Jetties and the Sandpiper Pavilion. Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. announced the reopening during a press conference on Thursday, Sept. 4, saying beach parks like Isla Blanca Park and Andy Bowie Park would reopen with a 50 percent parking capacity.

The two parking lots in between the Sandpiper Pavilion and the D.J. Lerma Pavilion are now wrapped in caution tape, prohibiting people from parking there. Beachgoers and anglers are limited to parking at the first lot near the D.J. Lerma Pavilion as part of the county’s reopening regulations. 

On the county’s Beach Access 5 and 6 and Boca Chica Beach, cars must be parked 20 feet away from each other. 

Cameron County’s reopening of beaches comes as Texas’s COVID-19 seven-day positivity rate drops below 10 percent, decreasing to 9.64 percent on Sept. 1. As of press time, the state’s positivity rate has fluctuated between just under ten percent and 7.24 percent, the state’s seven-day positivity rate on Sept. 6. 

Texas’s COVID-19 positivity rate, which had not been below 10 percent since June 22 (9.76 percent), measures the percentage of COVID-19 cases in the past seven days in relation to the number of tests that have occurred.

A juvenile grey heron strolls the Jetties at Isla Blanca Park on Sept. 8. Photo by Gaige Davila.

The county beaches reopening also comes after media attention towards RV reservations inside Isla Blanca Park and Andy Bowie Park. Stuart Diamond, a South Padre Island attorney, who is representing 13 people who were ticketed after surfing at Isla Blanca Park on July 24, accused Cameron County of privatizing the beach parks for RV renters. 

Those tickets have not been dismissed upon the beach park reopenings, Diamond said. Because the surfers were allegedly violating the then-valid emergency management order—which closed county beach accesses and parks—by walking through Isla Blanca Park, Cameron County’s reopening of the beach park does not change the status of the tickets, Diamond said. 

Diamond expects trials for the tickets to occur sometime next year but hopes the tickets could be dismissed before then. 

The PRESS has contacted Trevino’s office and is awaiting comment on why Cameron County has reopened beaches and if it is related to Texas’ decreasing COVID-19 positivity rate or the surfers being ticketed in Isla Blanca Park. 

Members of the Surfrider Foundation’s South Texas Chapter had scheduled a protest on Sept. 6, calling for Cameron County to reopen the beach parks and access to the general public. The rally was cancelled after Treviño announced the county’s beach access and beach parks would be reopened. 

“We got our public beach parks back open, so now it is up to you all individually to be responsible and show Cameron County that we can be responsible while enjoying them,” the group said in a Facebook post.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.portisabelsouthpadre.com/2020/09/11/changing-tides-as-covid-19-positivity-rates-decrease-county-beaches-reopen/

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