Expert explains why beach closures and statewide mask order could help flatten COVID-19 curve

GALVESTON, TEXAS (KTRK) -- There are several closures for the Fourth of July weekend in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Brazoria County announced its beaches will be closed daily starting on July 4 from 11 a.m. until midnight.

In the city of Houston, Eleanor Tinsley Park and Sam Houston Park will be closed, as well as a number of street closures ahead of the city's Fourth of July celebration.

Thursday, crews in Galveston started preparing to close all beaches to cars, visitors and locals. The closure goes into effect Friday, July 3 at 5 a.m.

Peter Davis, the chief of Galveston Island Beach Patrol, said it was the anticipated Independence Day crowd that concerned the city as COVID-19 cases continues to surge across the state and in the Houston area.

"I don't think we can handle 500,000 people out here for the weekend," Davis said. "But we can handle a number of tourist. The hotels are booked, and a lot of the beach rentals and that kind of stuff is still going to happen."

Anyone who violates the order this weekend could be charged with a class c misdemeanor and could face a fine up to $500.

Davis said he is hopeful that people will do the right thing, wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Galveston also extended its mask order through the end of September, which means people will have to wear a mask when visiting businesses this weekend.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania, projected Harris County and the Houston area would see the surge in COVID-19 cases it is currently experiencing.

Jeffrey Morris, the professor behind the study, said if factors stay the same, it is projected that Harris County could see more than 4,600 cases in one day by July 25.

Morris said those numbers could change after Governor Greg Abbott announced a statewide mask mandate.

Morris said if people follow the mask order and there is enforcement, as well as social distancing, then it could help slow the spike in COVID-19 cases.

"I think it's important to get this surge under control right now, and I think conditions on the Fourth of July might make it likely for the virus to spread further," Morris said. "One thing we have learned over the last month is mask wearing is key, especially, when people are indoors and around other people."

Morris said it will be about two to three weeks before we could see the impact of Fourth of July celebrations.

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