Effective Monday, March 23, Matagorda County Commissioners voted to close the entrances of all Matagorda and Sargent beaches and encourage all county restaurants to follow the Center for Disease Control recommendations to combat the community spreading of COVID-19.
While the county stayed short of asking all restaurants to shut their doors to inside traffic, they did recommend that all restaurants heed the recommendations put forth by the CDC when it comes to crowds.
“I do think it’s time our restaurants curtail inside business and just do curbside and to-go orders only at this time,” said Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald. “We know this will be hard of these businesses but it is time to put safety before profit at this time.”
The CDC is currently recommending that all citizens avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts and to use drive-thru, pickup or delivery options. Avoid all discretionary travel, shopping trips and social visits.
“I would hate to tell someone that have to close down at this time,” said Matagorda County Commissioner Bubba Frick. “Hopefully, they have enough sense to do it on their own.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have common sense or know how to use it,” McDonald said.
Matagorda County Precinct 2 Commissioner Kent Pollard, who’s precinct borders all of the county’s beaches, said he has received correspondence from the Governor’s Land Office (GLO) authorizing counties to close off beach access points if it’s in the best interest for the public’s safety.
Already, Cameron and Galveston counties have voted to close off beach access points until further notice.
“This is definitely something we need to talk about since all the school districts in the greater Houston area are closed through April 25,” Pollard said. “And there is some talk going around to close these school through the remainder of the school year.
“Our county school are closed right now and keeping those teenage kids at home is another challenge,” Pollard said. “I just feel we might get an influx from the high school and college kids coming to the Matagorda beaches if we don’t do something. Not sure if this will work and I know we are going to upset business owners but it was one of those things where you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t do it.”
Pollard said this is just something that needs to be done to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in this community.
“This is going to get worse before it gets better,” Pollard said.
Frick agreed saying the county needed to do something to address this issue.
“We need to get something in place before everyone says they are coming to Matagorda because they are still open,” Frick said.
One issue that will be hard to combat with the closing of the beaches is how to enforce the closure of the beaches. Pollard knows local law enforcement is already stretched thin but this is a problem that is being seen all over the state.
“Everyone is being stretched thin right now,” Pollard said. “It’s a statewide issue. Everyone is having a problem finding supplies and manpower right now. We just need to head this off before a problem arises. Are we going to be able to keep everyone off the beaches, no. But the idea for this is keep the masses from coming to our beaches.”
The Lower Colorado River Authority has already announced its parks will close effective Monday, March 23 and will remain close until further notice.
McDonald said the county and this country will overcome this as long as everyone works together to get past it.
“We are at the tip of the sphere right now,” McDonald said. “Since we have the first death in the state of Texas, everyone thinks we are more infectious than other parts of the state and that is not the case at all. Social distancing is the key to keep this from spreading and becoming a public transmission in Matagorda County.
“We need to get to the peak of this and get down as fast as we can and get off this hill and get back to our normal routine,” McDonald said. “If we don’t follow the lead of the CDC, then we might face more stringent guidelines that will be put in place at the state and federal levels.”