The Labor Day 2020 weekend was busier than usual on Galveston Island.
At the weekend’s peak Sunday, officials reported thousands of people on the beach, bumper-to-bumper beachfront traffic and ferry traffic backing up to the seawall, while local business owners reported increased numbers of patrons — all despite new, albeit fewer, daily COVID-19 cases still being diagnosed and coronavirus-related restrictions.
“It was intense,” Galveston Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis said. “We were at, like, maximum capacity for the island (Sunday), I think. Our stats were really high. We had over 9,000 preventative actions, which could be some of them were moved away from rip currents, closer to shore, out of the water before dark.”
Sunday, in particular, saw higher numbers than Davis has seen in a while, he said.
In fact, ever since beaches reopened, the trend has been larger crowds across the board, Davis said. Weekday crowds are closer to what regular weekend crowds were before the pandemic, and regular weekend crowds have rivaled those of holiday weekends before the pandemic, Davis said.
Although beach traffic was heavy, groups of people maintained social distance from other groups for the most part, although some parts of the beach were too densely populated, at times, to do so, Davis said.
“Even though there was a lot of people on the beach, they were still kind of spread out from each other,” Davis said.
Beachgoer and Houston resident Ryan Culbertson said he and his family occasionally make the drive down to visit the beach, and he felt safe at the beach even with the threat of the coronavirus still lingering.
“We’re very comfortable with outdoor activities, including the beach,” Culbertson said.
One of the many businesses located along the Seawall, Salsas Mexican Restaurant, 4604 Seawall Blvd., saw a major jump in sales compared to a year ago as well as compared to recent weekends, manager George Oyervides said.
“Our volume was a lot higher,” Oyervides said. “Every night felt like a Friday night.”
The holiday weekend crowds also spread to downtown Galveston businesses, such as Hey Mikey’s Ice Cream, 2120 Postoffice St., which also saw a rise in sales compared to last Labor Day weekend, owner Robert Bouvier said.
“With people staying at home, they have a lot of time on their hands and want to get out, so we’re busy at a lot of different times,” Bouvier said.
Bouvier also noticed less ire from customers regarding coronavirus-related state-mandated measures, including limited capacity and mandatory face coverings to enter the business.
“This was one of the very first weekends when we were busy that we didn’t have an outpouring of people calling and complaining about masks,” Bouvier said. “This weekend, we didn’t even have one phone call about that.”