Visitors to the beach town of Rocky Point in neighboring Sonora, Mexico, will finally be able to get back in the water Saturday, Aug. 1, as the town reopens beaches for the first time in more than four months.
Puerto Peñasco, known as Rocky Point, has slowly been reopening over the past several months after shutting down completely in March because of the coronavirus. Now, Rocky Point Mayor Ernesto Munro says it’s finally time to reopen the town’s biggest attraction - its beaches.
"One of the biggest concerns throughout this activation plan is, 'When is Rocky Point going to open its beaches?' And the time is here, on Aug. 1," Munro said. "So let’s hope that we all are up to the expectations — visitors respect and locals obey. It’s teamwork."
Checkpoints with temperature checks and sanitation tunnels previously installed at the entrance of the city are now at the town’s public beaches, Munro said. Once they pass the checkpoints, visitors will be required to social distance, stay with their groups of no more than 10 people, wear face coverings entering and exiting the beach and bring their own trash-bags.
The beach will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., with 6 to 8 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. reserved for people exercising. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. beaches will be open to people who want to relax or enjoy water activities, Munro said.
"We want to maintain a heavy presence of authority in the beach area so we are always keeping a safe distance and not allowing crowds exceeding the amounts of people on the beach area," he said, adding that he expects large numbers of people to arrive for the first open weekend.
"I think we’re going to be packed," he said. "This past weekend we had almost 30,000 people visiting Rocky Point. So I expect now with the beach open that number is going to increase and the maximum capacity of operation is going to be filled."
He said the city is prepared, and he doesn't expect any problems. But he recognizes that each new phase of reopening brings new challenges.
"To be honest with you, I am excited about the opportunity this will create for our community families. However, I’m mortified that people will relax and not keep up with the protocols and that will cause a larger problem," he said. "But I think these months and weeks of preparation have been a successful tool for us to be ready for this moment."
As tourists enter town, Munro said, a random person in every fifth car will also be tested for coronavirus.
The plan is to maintain the protocols for the next month, with the hope that sanitation checkpoints and testing at the city entrance be phased out in September if all goes well, Munro said. But if there are outbreaks, the city could have to consider closing again.
"I mean, it could go back to just shutting down, as severe as that. It just depends on how this whole thing behaves and evolves," he said.
Other beaches in Sonora have also reopened in recent weeks with new safety protocols. Some have faced crowding that has led authorities to implement limits to entry.