Warm Weather Draws Crowds to Virginia Beach Despite Stay-at-Home Order

People flocked to beaches in Virginia over the weekend, despite the statewide stay at home directive aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The Virginia Beach oceanfront was busy despite the beach being closed under the order, with people buying food and gifts and sunbathing near the water. Many groups maintained their distance and people on the boardwalk wore masks, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Kayla Thomas, a concession stand worker, told the newspaper that the crowds looked like those she might see during the summer. "I'm just shocked by the amount of people," she said.

So far, there are 30,388 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Virginia and the death toll has reached 1,009, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The beach at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront was closed today. But it was packed.

This photo was taken at 3:42 p.m. this afternoon by Virginian-Pilot photographer Kaitlin McKeown. https://t.co/Ws2EFAF976 pic.twitter.com/x3lLF1wuHT

— The Virginian-Pilot (@virginianpilot) May 17, 2020

On March 30, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay at home Executive Order Fifty-Three, which will remain in effect until June 10. Under the directive, all Virginians have been told to stay at home except for allowable travel including to seek medical attention, to go to work, care for family or household members, go grocery shopping or engage in outdoor activity while adhering to strict social distancing requirements.

Virginia moved into the first phase of the "Forward Virginia" plan on May 15, which will see the state gradually reopen. Retail stores are reopening with limited capacity, but beaches are still off-limits, gyms are closed and people cannot dine inside restaurants.

During Phase One, non-essential retail stores, outdoor dining, places of worship, salons and private camping areas can reopen with restrictions. No restrictions have been lifted in northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County.

Last week, Northam said he had signed an executive order extending mandated closures and restrictions on businesses in northern Virginia.

"Governor Ralph Northam today issued Executive Order Sixty-Two, allowing specific localities in Northern Virginia to delay entering Phase One of the 'Forward Virginia' plan to ease restrictions on certain business operations that were put in place in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19," Northam's office said in a press release.

"As I have said, it's important that the Commonwealth as a whole can meet key health metrics before moving into Phase One," Northam said. "The Phase One policies are a floor, not a ceiling. While the data show Virginia as a whole is ready to slowly and deliberately ease some restrictions, it is too soon for Northern Virginia. I support the request from localities in this region to delay implementation of Phase One to protect public health."

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Stock photo: Virginians can engage in outdoor activity while adhering to strict social distancing requirements David McNew/Getty Images