Ocean City, Maryland and its mayor are plotting their own treacherous course in reopening hotels this weekend.
The city’s Mayor Rick Meehan reportedly pushed for the opening earlier this month, but hit a roadblock from the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan.
Hogan later signed off on Meehan’s plan while lifting the state’s stay at home order (effective at 5 p.m.) tonight. Hogan is giving cities and counties leeway in coming up with reopening plans, but restaurants and bars remain closed to all but takeout business.
Granted, Ocean City has a lot riding on summer tourism. It is far less of a year-round destination than coastal areas of Delaware.
Meehan’s move also puts nearby Delaware hotel operators in a bad spot heading into the Memorial Day weekend.
Delaware’s plan is for beaches and boardwalks to open for state residents with some enforcement regarding occupants of vehicles with out of state tags. The moves come with risks for Delaware’s tourism industry, which will not see a great summer.
The biggest challenge for the Maryland mayor is telling everyone to “come on over” without a limited reopening of restaurants and bars.
Granted, bars and restaurants, especially a few of the jumbo-sized operations in Ocean City have the potential to become coronavirus Petri dishes.
But not having the bar-entertainment option could lead to headaches for law enforcement in dealing with potentially unruly flash mobs and consumption of alcohol and other substances in uncontrolled settings.
None of this is new in Ocean City. The hidden danger is that even a single COVID-19 carrier could infect scores and even hundreds if people don’t behave. The odds of this happening, while not great, will increase with every weekend surge.
A few cases could kill Ocean City’s lucrative family tourist season, with the party-hearty crowd sticking around to keep law enforcement busy.
Perhaps, the mayor’s gamble will pay off. Right now, it’s a bet Delaware is not willing to place.
Enjoy your weekend. This newsletter will be back on Monday, with breaking news updates as warranted. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer