PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — All boat ramps and marinas are closed to recreational boating activities in Palm Beach County amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
In a statement, county officials said the order includes boat launching, in-out storage activities and boat rentals in Palm Beach County until further notice.
Licensed commercial fishermen who provide food for restaurants and markets, commercial marine operations and support services are permitted to operate.
The order was described as necessary in response to people gathering in large groups on the sandbars, Intracoastal lands and waterways without observing social distancing to prevent community spread of COVID-19.
Marina supply, fueling and service activities necessary to support commercial fishing and commercial marine operations may continue to operate.
In a statement, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer said "it deeply concerns me" after seeing pictures of the crowds on the waterways over the weekend.
"Let me put it bluntly. This is not the right time to invite a bunch of friends on your boat for a big party. You wouldn't go out boating if there were a bad rainstorm," Singer said in a Facebook post.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies will be enforcing the closures and monitoring waterways.
"The boat ramps should've been closed about a week ago," Markus Lockhart, a boater at Currie Park in West Palm Beach, said. "If it was this serious, it should've been closed a week ago. I am happy we were able to enjoy everything and be able to soak in the sun for the last few minutes before we get stuck in the house for however long we know."
Closures are being ordered in Palm Beach County and counties to the south to prevent large group gatherings and to protect the health of residents during this emergency.
Current guidelines call for gatherings to be limited to groups of 10 or fewer with social distancing of 6 feet apart.
Officials continue to stress that these actions are necessary to slow the community spread of COVID-19.
There are thousands of boat lifts and community boat ramps along the coast, so closing public boat ramps will not stop boating altogether.
However, closing the public ramps may help slow the spread of the virus.