Coronavirus: Gulf Shores to close beaches beginning Friday

Published 12:13 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020

Alabama’s largest coastal city announced plans Thursday to close public beaches because throngs of young people on spring break are ignoring rules meant to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said the tourist-dependent city would shut down the beaches Friday through April 6 to ward off large numbers of students gathering on the sand.

“This will be a threat to our livelihood, but it’s also a threat to lives,” Craft said.

Private beaches like those next to condominium towers and beach houses will remain open.

In neighboring Orange Beach, Mayor Tony Kennon said students flocked to Alabama at least in part because of restrictions in Florida, which closed its restaurant and nightclubs while many in Alabama remain open.

“We have more spring breakers right now in this town than we’ve had in the last three years,” Kennon said.

Coastal officials have asked the state to limit beach access, but Gov. Kay Ivey hasn’t announced any changes.

Prominent businesses including the Flora-Bama Lounge and LuLu’s, a popular restaurant in Gulf Shores, have shut down temporarily, but others remain open.

Health officials said Alabama had 68 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, up 17 from a day earlier, with 14 of the state’s 67 counties affected. The largest number is in the state’s most populous area, Jefferson County. One case has been confirmed in Baldwin County, where Gulf Shores and Orange beach are located.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.