It’s been roughly 125 days since Rehoboth Beach started requiring face masks in all public places. According to Police Chief Keith Banks, as of Oct. 9, the city has handed out over 21,500 face masks since that rule was instituted.
In response to an early-summer spike of COVID-19 cases in the state’s beach areas, Rehoboth commissioners voted to require face masks everywhere beginning July 1. Initially, that even included on the beach. However, a week later, the rule was changed to say masks weren’t required, when social distancing is possible, on the beach or when exercising.
In an email Oct. 9, Banks said Delaware Emergency Management Administration has supplied the majority of the face covers. They’re being delivered as needed, he said, but early into enforcement, that was every two to three weeks.
In early August, during the board of commissioners’ weekly special meeting regarding the city’s response to the pandemic, Banks said his officers were feeling face mask enforcement fatigue, estimating his cadets were making contact 500 times a day with individuals about putting a mask on. They were getting tired of repeating themselves over and over, and also getting yelled at, he said.
A couple of months later, Banks said his officers are doing fine. Most seasonal cadets are finished for the summer, he said, and the remaining officers are doing well and continuing to serve the public.
They aren’t just handing out face masks. Banks said the police department has also handed out 63 COVID-19-related citations in that same time period.
Banks said the majority of the public accepts the regulation and appreciates the police department’s efforts, which is why, generally speaking, there are high compliance numbers. He said the city’s continued and consistent message that face coverings are required has played a role in compliance.
Throughout the summer, the city closely monitored the health of staff coming into direct contact with the public. In the end, Banks said, 26 lifeguards and one seasonal cadet tested positive for COVID-19. Other seasonal cadets, facing the unexpected hazard of enforcing COVID-19-related restrictions, left before summer was over.
Banks said there’s been a trend of reduced interest in law enforcement careers resulting in far fewer applications, but he stopped short of predicting how COVID-19 will affect next year’s application levels. He said a shortfall in seasonal employees can be attributed to the cost of housing in a beach community more than the COVID-19 pandemic.
With no end to the mask-wearing mandate in sight, Banks said the city, along with the police department, will continue to support and enforce the rules on wearing facial coverings.