Ocean City is preparing for a 4th of July weekend like no other. Because of the continuing concerns surrounding Covid-19, this Independence Day will feel a little different in our beach town. There will be no public fireworks displays. There will be no large gatherings or crowded pool parties. And now, there may be an influx of travelers due to the re-closing of bars in Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches.
Delaware Beaches Suffer Increase In Positive Coronavirus Tests
Our neighboring beaches to the north are facing a growing number of Coronavirus cases. Delaware Governor John Carney, in his live press conference this afternoon, noted that the outbreak has been prevalent in the younger population. Several bar and restaurant workers have tested positive for the virus, causing establishments to shut down all over again in order to test the staff, and to protect other employees and customers.
Most of these new cases are people in the 18 – 25 year old age bracket, which points to social gatherings as hot spots for virus transmission. Governor Carney stated his disappointment in the cause of this uptick: “We have witnessed across our state, but particularly in the beach communities, complacency with respect to mask wearing and social distancing.”
Due to these exact guidelines not being appropriately followed, Carney has decided that bars in both Dewey and Rehoboth beaches are to be re-closed, right before the start of the official summer season.
Service Industry Employees In Ocean City Face Unique Challenges
Being in the restaurant industry for 25 years, my sympathy has been with the entire food and beverage community during this crisis. Especially now, as more and more tourists flock to Ocean City beaches in the semblance of a “normal” summer. These businesses are faced with a seemingly impossible task in the world of customer service. Short-staffed and overworked employees, managers and owners alike are more stressed than any summer season before.
Additionally, many employees have faced the issue of both coworkers and customers refusing to comply with the new safety guidelines. Because of financial hardships, some business owners have made the poor decision to not enforce the necessity of face coverings on their staff or customers. Concerned employees are shamed into breaking the rules as well, increasing the possibility of virus transmission.
It is a dangerous predicament for an employee of a non-compliant business: if they choose to stay home because they do not feel safe, they lose their unemployment benefits and probably their job. If they choose to speak up to management or report the business for not enforcing the restrictions, they also risk their livelihood. If they are strong enough to stand up and be the only masked bartender in the building, they are the subject of ridicule. And how can a bartender ask a customer to wear a mask when even the owner refuses?
Ocean City Bars and Restaurants Must Enforce Restrictions
I know many a scared server, and equally as many furious managers. With so many businesses eschewing the rules, those who are complying with the restrictions still suffer the consequences, as proven by Delaware’s recent surge. The negligence of a few has affected them all, and with the bars in Rehoboth and Dewey beaches re-closing, will the jilted bar customers move south to satisfy their cravings?
Some restaurant managers have kept their bar areas closed indefinitely in order to assure proper social distancing requirements. Those who have been diligent about spacing out their seating and tables are frustrated with those who have allowed their bars to fill, shoulder to shoulder.
If any of the Delaware bar scene moves south for this July 4th weekend, they may be bringing the virus with them. And if some Ocean City businesses don’t enforce the wearing of face coverings, the town may see its own uptick in Covid-19 cases.
Stronger Together, Even When We Are Apart
As financially damaging as this pandemic has already been for our beach town, a re-closure of bars and restaurants would surely be traumatic. As a unified town, Ocean City must take the unfortunate lesson that our Delaware neighbors have suffered to heart. This holiday weekend, we must take care of each other, and follow and enforce the restrictions. In order to respect and protect each other, local and visitor alike, we must take this threat seriously and face it proactively: Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Be kind.