Virginia Beach is dancing a weird waltz with the governor.
Privately, city officials and local businessmen express fury over Ralph Northam’s capricious decision to ban sunbathing on the beaches. Publicly they’re groveling, as they beg him to reopen the sand before the tourist industry is a smoking ruin.
No one will want to come to Virginia Beach and stay in one of the city’s 11,400 hotel rooms if they can’t grab a chair and spend the day on the beach. That’s just a fact. They’ll head to Ocean City, the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach instead.
As I’ve said before, if Northam has a study showing that sunbathers are more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus than fishermen are, he should produce it. Otherwise, he should let the people enjoy THEIR beaches and withdraw his silly no-sitting-in-the-sand edict.
The governor’s a doctor. He should want people outside soaking up Vitamin D, boosting their immune systems and enjoying nature. You know who’s getting sick? People who stay home. Just ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Earlier this month he said he was “shocked” to learn that 66% of the people who’d become ill in New York had been staying in their houses.
Saturday was a perfect day to get out of the house. After a cool spring, the day dawned warm and sunny. Temps climbed high into the 80s and the sun was dazzling.
This is what we used to call a perfect beach day. But we won’t have any perfect beach days until the governor gets his boot off the neck of Virginia Beach.
I went out for a late morning walk down the Boardwalk and then strolled up the beach to the North End.
What I saw made me sad.
The Boardwalk was busy but the beaches, in the resort area, were mostly empty. Except for the occasional lifeguard.
Farther north there were quite a few fishermen, some umbrellas and chairs but nothing approaching what anyone would call a large “crowd.”
So, imagine my surprise Saturday evening when The Virginian-Pilot posted a photo showing massive crowds on the beach. Immediately, others who’d been to the oceanfront that day also expressed astonishment. When last I checked there were more than 1,000 comments on The Pilot’s Facebook page, many asking if it was an old photo.
The photo was shot Saturday afternoon, the editors assured a disbelieving public.
Take a good look at the image and see if you notice anything unusual. How about the way the curve of the shoreline juts out into the ocean like Cape Cod? Problem is, the shoreline is straight in Virginia Beach, right up to Ft. Story.
I’m not a photographer, but I do know that telephoto lenses can compress the depth of field and create a distortion. It can also make people look as if they’re standing close together when they aren’t. I recently stumbled on an articleby several Danish photographers explaining how this is done.
Even the Pilot reporter who was on the beach Saturday, Kimberly Pierceall, described something far different from what the photo accompanying her story seemed to show.
“While the sprawling beach nearby was not at all packed, and groups were keeping their distance, there was no lack of beach blankets, towels, tents and umbrellas set up near the water,” she wrote.
The Governor’s order is heavy-handed and nonsensical. I don’t care if folks violate it, and neither should you because there is nothing dangerous about sitting in a beach chair. Yet if history is any predictor our petulant governor may see the newspaper photo and decide to punish the city even more.
That would be catastrophic.
On Saturday, beachgoers – in smaller numbers than usual – did what they’ve always done when the sun shines: They came to Virginia’s vast beaches where they stretched out, read books, listened to music, built sand castles with their kids and waded in the chilly water.
That shouldn’t be a crime.