Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include North Topsail Beach closing their public access parking, a decision made after the story was published.
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Some Eastern North Carolina beaches have closed their public access points in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Emerald Isle announced Thursday in a press release they would be closing their public beach parking areas through March 31. Public restrooms are also closed during this time period.
This announcement came a day before the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in Carteret County. A second case in the county was announced just hours after the first.
Emerald Isle also issued a State of Emergency for the town on Thursday and following a similar message from Carteret County, stated they are discouraging visitors to the coast at this time. The Town of Cedar Point followed suit, declaring a State of Emergency and also discouraging visitors to the town for the time being.
Emerald Isle Town Manager Matt Zapp explained in an email to The Daily News that the decision to close public parking was done in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to align the town with the county.
"For a community anchored in hospitality, this is a very difficult message to send and share," Zapp wrote. "In alignment with Carteret County, the Town of Emerald Isle made the declaration to discourage travel to the coast for the safety of all."
The Western Ocean Regional Access (WORA)
The Eastern Ocean Regional Access (EORA)
Station Street Park
Third Street Park
Those who disregard the order will be parked illegally and receive appropriate citations, according to Zapp.
As spring arrives and the weather begins to warm up, Zapp wrote the number of visitors to Emerald Isle will increase. While normally this is a welcomed site, "these are not normal times" and the town’s highest priority now is the health and safety of the community.
"Please take social distancing seriously and help us all reduce the possible community spread of COVID-19," Zapp wrote.
Town officials will be reviewing their closures and restrictions to make changes to the schedule if it becomes necessary, according to Zapp.
Surf City announced on Friday they are "taking additional proactive measures" by closing all public beach access sites, public parking areas, and town parks. The closures will remain in effect until the town rescinds them.
The town also urged all businesses and residents to follow N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s orders for the health and safety of the community.
"We ask for your understanding and cooperation as we continue to address this evolving situation," the town wrote.
The North Topsail Beach Board of Aldermen met Friday, however no restrictions against visiting the beach or the public access points were ordered at that time, according to a release from the town.
A decision to close the public beach access parking lots and parks was made on Saturday to go into effect at 7 p.m.
"Especially with the nice weather this weekend, there was a concern that too many people would be in a close proximity to one another, which would be counter to state and federal recommendations," Town Clerk Laura Oxley explained.