Tampa area beaches brace for big Labor Day weekend crowds, local leaders stress safety

Coronavirus

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa Bay area beaches are bracing for thousands of visitors this Labor Day weekend, leaving local leaders worried about a post-holiday spike in COVID-19 cases.

The message they have for tourists? Enjoy the beaches, but follow the rules.

Big crowds are expected as many families, locals, and tourists alike are expected during the final holiday of the summer.

Randy Jones knows a lot about crowded beaches. The longtime local spends every week at St. Pete Beach with his metal detector.

He says he’s seen just about everything during this pandemic.

“There’s a lot of beach here, a lot of beach. I mean, if you can’t get away from somebody else, there’s something wrong,” he said with a smile. “There’s miles of beaches.”

Randy, like so many in the Tampa Bay area, are hoping this holiday weekend is safe when it comes to COVID-19.

His advice? “Man, keep your distance,” he told 8 On Your Side.

St. Pete Beach Mayor Al Johnson has the same mindset when it comes to visitors to this international tourist destination, nestled in a tiny beach town.

“We love to share our beach, ” Mayor Johnson said Thursday. “Please be respectful, we have a pandemic going on.”

The St. Pete Beach mayor loves seeing his city so popular. The tourism hot spot is ranked by TripAdvisor as the second most popular beach in America, right behind by fellow Bay Area beach Siesta Key.

“I keep telling people who don’t want to follow the restrictions, I said, okay. Would you rather see a spike and have us shut everything down again,” he said.

Mayor Johnson wants locals and tourists alike to remember one thing this Labor Day weekend and beyond. We are still in a pandemic.

“Come on down, come here. We’d love to have you,” said the mayor. “Please follow all the appropriate guidelines the CDC has laid out, so we don’t cause a huge bump and respect our little town.”

There will be an increased presence of law enforcement on local beaches so make sure you follow guidelines put in place at your local beach.

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