Pack a face mask in your picnic basket or beach bag this Memorial Day

May 21, 2020

The unofficial start of summer kicks off this year under pandemic rules applying to the streets, parks and beaches.

Warm weather is in the forecast for Memoial Day weekend. Despite that, most beaches will be closed and social distancing rules will apply. That means no more than 10 peole in a crowd and a potentially strange face mask-shaped sun tan.

It is part of a COVID-19 summer. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the only way to keep coronavirus cases starting to build again is to follow those rules and for them to be enforced. That task will fall on sheriff's deputies and State Police.

"On the call I had with local representatives earlier this week, supervisors and mayors, I did inform them that we are responsible for enforcement, for compliance," he said. "The governor said it, which means law enforcement is too. So you have to let your local police department know they are responsible and if they are going to say, 'No, we're not going to do that,' they are actually violating the law and I hope that never happens."

Poloncarz said county parks are open and more beaches, like county beaches, will be open eventually.

"The county beaches will be closed. They normally would not open until June anyway," the county executive said. "However, we have found out through our Department of Environmental Health, which is required to do beach testing, it appears that the only beach which will be open will be Woodlawn Beach. Every other beach that we have contacted in Erie County will not be open."

Canalside, including the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, is usually a popular Memorial Day destination. On Saturday, the park will host a socially distant salute, to include the installation of 7,300 flags throughout the Monuments Garden. In cooperation with The Battle Within Foundation, it represents the number of U.S. veterans who died last year as a result of PTSD and suicide.

The salute will start at 10 a.m. and include five docents in uniform as a socially distant Honor Guard to represent each military branch. The public is invited, while maintaining proper social distancing guidelines. The ceremony also will be recorded and shared online.

WBFO's Marian Hetherly contributed to this story.