Kittery closes beaches due to coronavirus

KITTERY, Maine – Town Manager Kendra Amaral issued an emergency proclamation Tuesday, ordering Fort Foster, Seapoint Beach and Crescent Beach to close indefinitely effective midnight – a decision intended to curb individuals from congregating during the coronavirus pandemic.

The call comes after officials in York opted to close their four beaches, while down the coast, officials in Rye chose to hold off.

Amaral’s proclamation cited a “need to prevent further spreading of the virus through person-to-person contact” that requires “actions that include potential regulations pertaining to the movement of persons and vehicles.”

The proclamation declares a local disaster under the town code to “protect the public health and safety of the inhabitants of the town of Kittery.”

Amaral on Tuesday said when York shut down its beaches, “we realized we were going to hit a critical point of people coming to Kittery as their alternative.”

“We are watching what’s going on in the areas around us and noticing that Kittery is continuing to be a destination for those in the community and in our neighboring states as they look to get out and get exercise,” Amaral said. “These locations, their entrances are at pinch points, which means it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.”

Gov. Janet Mills has limited permitted gatherings to 10 people or less, and individuals are encouraged to practice social distancing by remaining six feet away from others to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“In order to protect the residents and the town, we are shutting (these areas) down to keep the crowds away,” Amaral said.

Maine’s cases on Tuesday were reported to have increased by 11 to 118.

For most people, COVID-19 results in only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. People with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover, according to the World Health Organization.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Amaral said the decision was made in consultation with the town’s emergency management team led by Fire Chief David O’Brien, and town councilors.

“People can still walk in their neighborhoods, they can still walk a number of areas to get outside and get that fresh air,” Amaral said. “We’re just trying to avoid people confining themselves in crowd when they don’t intend to be.”

Parking will be prohibited at Fort Foster and Seapoint and Crescent beaches during this time.

This week’s order in York indefinitely shuttered Cape Neddick Beach, Short Sands Beach, Long Sands Beach and Harbor Beach beginning Monday. The decision was made after the town received reports of many people congregating at its beaches, despite social distancing guidance, Town Manager Steve Burns said this week.

On Monday night in Rye, the Board of Selectmen decided it would only support closure of the town beaches if the state decided to close state beaches. Police Chief Kevin Walsh requested the closure, citing the beaches as popular gathering destinations that bring people from out of state.

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