- StreetLight Data released new figures from its interactive map of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), using anonymous data from smartphones and GPS-enabled devices, to preview the activity that beach counties may experience over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
- As of May 15, the country's average VMT is 240% higher than its lowest point on April 12 (Easter Sunday), and 32% higher than it was on May 10 (Mother’s Day). The beach cities of Cape Cod, MA; Seaside/Canon Beach, OR; Ocean City, MD; and Kennebunk, ME have all experienced a 50% increase or more in VMT since Mother's Day on May 10.
- Memorial Day weekend will "almost certainly" see another spike in traveling, and could represent the largest peak in VMT since April 12, Streetlight Data spokesperson Martin Morzynski told Smart Cities Dive.
This year's Memorial Day weekend could be unlike any other as states, counties and cities begin to relax stay-at-home orders imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While some governments have been very measured in their approach to reopening, the U.S. has generally seen a flurry of different — and sometimes contradictory — regulations and safety precautions.
For some communities, Memorial Day weekend is a holiday during which beach access is virtually nonnegotiable. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced all beaches in the state can reopen on Friday ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, noting the "shore is central to our Jersey identity."
Meanwhile, Ocean City, MD reopened its beaches on May 16. And while the city will be largely reopened for the holiday weekend, it won't exactly look like year's past.
Boardwalks will be donned with signage, reminding visitors to remain at a safe distance. Lifeguards will be equipped with PPE gear and instructions to ask individuals about any potential COVID symptoms "before rendering aid."
A local restaurant will even feature new "bumper tables" that allow patrons to maintain a social distance via inflatable tubes that surround the table.
An Ocean City restaurant has implemented bumper tables, mobile creations surrounded by inner tubes, to keep participants six feet from each other. https://t.co/gjsM94D7mj— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) May 19, 2020
Other parts of the country appear to be embracing a slower return to "normal." In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the city’s lakefront will reopen soon, but that it’s still too early to determine when.
And in Los Angeles, the city will have open beaches for the holiday weekend, but is forbidding any leisurely activities. The city will permit "active use" of its beaches for running, walking, swimming or surfing, but is prohibiting picnicking, biking, sunbathing, sitting, group gatherings or group sports.
To keep up with all of our coverage on how the new coronavirus is impacting U.S. cities, visit our daily tracker.