Northam’s Ludicrous Beach Rules

by Kerry Dougherty

It’s beginning to look like something other than a concern for public health lurks behind Governor Ralph Northam’s irrational decision to keep the beaches closed indefinitely.

Although there is much we don’t know about COVID-19, study after study — from Australia to Stanford to Connecticut — indicates that while the virus is highly contagious, the chances of being infected while outside is considerably smaller than contracting it indoors.

Beyond that, you don’t need a medical degree to know that the best human defense against any virus is a healthy immune system. Vitamin D — what we used to call “the sunshine vitamin” — plays a critical part in keeping us healthy enough to ward off pathogens.

Yet, beginning Friday Virginians will be able to go to a hair stylist or a barber, they’ll be able to dine outdoors in cafes and they’ll be able to exercise and fish on the beaches. They will not, however, be allowed to SIT on the beaches, to relax and soak up the sun.

That means our hotels will remain virtually empty, because no one wants to visit a beach town and be required to do jumping jacks to be allowed on the sand.

If Northam has a study showing that sitting in a beach chair makes people more susceptible to the coronavirus than if they’re standing or fishing, he needs to make it public.

Otherwise he needs to end his illogical prohibition against sitting on the beach.

Yet, at his Friday press conference, Northam stubbornly stuck with his rule and resorted to gibberish to explain it.

“The bottom line is consumers,” the governor said. “They need to feel comfortable that when they go back out to the beach whether when they grab hold of a handrail, or go down the steps, or are sitting with others or up on the Boardwalk, they need to feel comfortable that they are going to be safe.”


Surely Northam is aware there are some members of our society who are so consumed with fear of this virus that they will NEVER feel safe in public. Not until a vaccine is here and they’ve gotten their dose.

I get it. Some of these people are truly at risk if they catch COVID-19. Those folks ought to stay indoors until that happens.

I hope they don’t get rickets.

But waiting until everyone feels “comfortable” is not practical. I hesitate to point this out, but not everyone is going to feel comfortable going to a barber shop this week, yet Northam’s opening those.

Consumers will be free to use their common sense when deciding if they want to get a haircut. If they feel it’s too risky, they won’t. Haircuts are not mandatory.

Why not allow folks who want to read a book on the beach the same freedom of choice?

It’s called personal responsibility.

Beyond that, the most recent studies on the effects of UV light on the coronavirus would seem to indicate that picking up this disease from a handrail baking in the sun are minimal.

Don’t take my word for it, this is from The Washington Post:

When the airborne virus at temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees is exposed to sunlight, its half-life decreases from around 60 minutes before exposure to 1.5 minutes after…

William Bryan, the acting undersecretary for science and technology at DHS, summarized it this way: “Within the conditions we’ve tested to date, the virus in droplets of saliva survives best in indoors and dry conditions. … The virus dies quickest in the presence of direct sunlight.”

Several other studies suggest sunlight kills the coronavirus effectively…

Ultraviolet light was strongly associated with lower covid-19 growth rates, according to researchers at the University of Connecticut. Their paper, published last week, says the virus probably will “decrease temporarily during summer, rebound by autumn and peak next winter.”

  • Columbia University researchers found that for two other types of coronaviruses, low levels of ultraviolet light in public locations would kill 90 percent of the virus in eight minutes, 95 percent in 11 minutes and 99 percent in 16 minutes. “As all human coronaviruses have similar genomic size, a key determinant of radiation sensitivity, it is realistic to expect that far-UVC light will show comparable inactivation efficiency against other human coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2,” they wrote.

The average May high temperature in Virginia Beach is 75.4 degrees, in June it’s 84, July 87, August 86, September 81 and October is 70. Chances any virus lingering on the handrails in those sizzling temperatures under bright sunshine will be fried.

Of course, if beachgoers are afraid, they should not touch them. Or better yet, they should avoid the beach.

When I talked to Mayor Bobby Dyer last week he said city officials estimate that Virginia Beach had already lost roughly $67 million in taxes.

If Northam’s arbitrary, anti-science beach shutdown is allowed to continue through Memorial Day, the economic results for the city will be catastrophic.

What will Virginia Beach look like when even more revenue dries up? It’s not far-fetched to think that some teachers and lots of city workers will lose their jobs, flood mitigation will be pushed back and city services will be slashed. Some parks, libraries and rec centers may have to close, not because of the virus but because there won’t be money to pay employees.

All of this, because Virginia’s paternalistic governor worries that some folks may not “feel comfortable” clutching the handrails leading to the beaches.