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3 Rehoboth Beach lifeguards test positive for COVID-19 amid virus spike at beaches

Three Rehoboth Beach lifeguards have tested positive for COVID-19, as a spike in cases of the virus is identified at the Delaware beaches, prompting the re-closure of some coastal restaurants.
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Three Rehoboth Beach lifeguards have tested positive for COVID-19, as a spike in cases of the virus is identified at the Delaware beaches, prompting the re-closure of some coastal restaurants.  

In a statement, posted to Facebook, Rehoboth Police Chief Keith Banks said the three lifeguards who tested positive are asymptomatic and will remain home in quarantine until they can return to work.

“We believe at this time there was very little contact with the public,” said Banks, adding that the lifeguards spend most of their time in the lifeguard stands. “We immediately executed our COVID response protocol and contacted the local health department. All lifeguards were notified of the exposure and will be tested within the next 24 hours,” said Banks.

Banks said lifeguard staffing levels will not be affected.

The Delaware Division of Public Health said at least 112 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in testing last week at the Delaware beaches. That prompted state health officials to urge anyone who works in retail or the restaurant industry at the Delaware beaches to get tested along with anyone who lives at the beach with people who aren’t members of their family.  

A line wrapped down the street for free testing at the Starboard in Dewey Beach Monday, June 29, 2020, which closed Friday after its employees tested positive for the virus.

“Dewey Beach has gone crazy, and there’s a lot of cases her,” said Gail Swope, who waited in line to be tested.

“We’re happy that everyone’s out here in line to get tested just so that they know if they’re carrying it our not,” said Capt. Jodie Cantey with the Delaware National Guard.

The Starboard restaurant was slated to reopen Tuesday. Several other restaurants also closed or moved to an outdoor dining-only model.

“We had a reservation at 99 Sea Level, and they closed because they heard there were other outbreaks at other restaurants, so all of their employees are getting tested,” said beach-goer Taniyah Grayson. 

Leishman said the restaurant industry is doing its part to keep everyone healthy and adhering to restrictions and guidelines.

“I think this why you’re seeing this momentary sting–this take-back by the industry to sort of in the beach community to shutdown some locations so they can be pro-active,” said Delaware Restaurant Association president and CEO Carrie Leishman. 

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Free testing is also available Thursday, July 2 at Epworth United Methodist Church from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 2, 2020. 

Testing by Beebe Healthcare Monday at Big Fish Grill in Rehoboth was halted early at 1:30 p.m. due to “traffic” and “safety” issues presented by the high-volume of cars. As a result, Tuesday’s testing event at Touch of Italy has been canceled. Leishman got tested at the site before it was closed. “

“We don’t want to go backwards; we have worked and struggled so hard; we have been the single most affected industry in the state because of COVID,” she said.

Instead, Beebe will offer drive-thru testing Wednesday, July 1, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Rehoboth Elementary School.

“The event is primarily for those who work in restaurants, but the public is also welcome,” Beebe said in a Facebook post.

Pre-registration is required for this event. 

The spike in COVID cases at the beach, state health officials said, maybe be tied to a lack of social distancing and mask-wearing.

“They’re not as serious down here with the masks as they are back home,” said Jay Mojica, who’s visiting from Montgomery County, Maryland. “They think that they’re on vacation and they can’t get sick.”

Further complicating matters, they could be bringing the virus back home as a souvenir, making it harder to track.

“It’s hard to keep track now, everything’s open so it could be coming from anywhere,” said Grayson.

The first cluster of COVID-19 cases at the beach was identified more than a week ago in teens celebrating senior week. At last check, many as eight teens, tied to two separate rental propertues in Dewey Beach, had tested positive for the contagious respiratory illness.

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