For good or ill, Galveston’s beaches, along with those in the rest of Texas, reopened just before midnight after Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday revised the state’s stance about which level of government could make that call.

Early in the COVID-19 crisis, the Texas General Land Office, which has considerable regulatory authority over the state’s public beaches, had allowed cities and counties to decide for themselves whether to close beaches in their jurisdictions.

Most did, with the local exceptions of Galveston County, which left beaches under its control on Bolivar Peninsula open, and Jamaica Beach, which left its beach open to pedestrians, but banned vehicles.

Abbott on Wednesday instructed the land office to rescind the authority it had ceded to locals and informed county and city leaders the beaches would reopen.

In doing so, he removed from Galveston’s city council the burden of deciding whether to open the beaches at once or attempt opening them in phases over a longer span of time.

The council seemed to be about evenly spilt about which of those decisions would be best.

It is so because there are valid arguments for opening the beaches gradually in phases and for opening them now.

The rationale for closing beaches in the first place was to discourage people from visiting Galveston, burdening police and emergency medical services and to avoid unnecessarily exposing people here, including service industry workers, to a coronavirus imported from elsewhere.

Those all were valid reasons.

The trouble, as proponents of opening the beaches have argued, is that a lot of people came to Galveston last weekend despite the beaches being closed. They congregated along the seawall, drove all over the island; they were in the grocery stores.

They also went onto the beaches, requiring city workers and members of the Beach Patrol to interact with them for no reason except to enforce the beach closure order.

It’s not unreasonable, then, to ask whether it wouldn’t be better to just open the beaches and be done with the whole controversy. That at least would give people room to spread out.

There are plenty of downsides to opening the beaches, not the least of which is forcing tourist venues such as restaurants to attempt enforcing capacity limits and social-distancing rules in the face of large, demanding crowds.

If, however, closing the beaches is not discouraging visitors, there’s little reason to continue.

Abbott’s decision, which likely is the same decision the city would have made Thursday, comes with risk and consequence.

That’s true with every decision the government has made and will make in response to the pandemic. Imposing restrictions on civic and commercial life has harmed people; relaxing those will too.

Residents worried about an influx of coronavirus-infected visitors should avoid the beaches and stay at home as much as possible.

Everybody should abide by the social distancing rules by staying 6 feet from people not among those they reside with.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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(13) comments

Robert Braeking

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Galveston couldn't handle the power that was ceded to it by the Land Office. Abbott was right to take the power back.

Gary Miller

Robert> Again you prove you think.

Ray Taft

If it’s good for the people, it’s bad for Democrats.

Opening the beaches is good for businesses.

Whereas keeping the beaches closed is what Democrats want because they want the economic disaster to continue forever. That is why do-nothing Democrats, and their allies in the media want to scare us into staying locked down.

Governor Abbott’s plan is good for Texas, so it’s bad for Democrats. Texans can do this. Do-nothing Democrats and their MSM naysayers should get out of the way.

Gary Miller

Ray> If it’s good for the people, it’s bad for Democrats. A truth too seldom offered.

Michael Jozwiak

Abbott's actions confirm the new American motto: "In Greed We Trust" as the almighty profit motive is more powerful than regard for lives. The beach people will bring their infections with them to the sands of Galveston Island infecting others who later will take back to their own homes, neighbors, and relatives. Just for a buck. Sad.

Carlos Ponce

A Song for Michael Jozwiak:

There's a place where I can go and hide myself from you

In my room, in my room

In this place I keep out all my worries and my fears

In my room, in my room

From Covidvirus I'll do my hiding

Lie awake night and day

Wash my hands to keep from crying

And wish the tourists away

Now it's dark and I'm alone

But I am still afraid

In my room, in my room

In my room, in my room

In my room, in my room

Wayne D Holt

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have hat trick here: clever, accurate and Beach Boys-centric. It doesn't get any better than this.

Wayne D Holt

This is just a wild guess: You're not unemployed. You're not wondering where next month's rent is coming from. You're not looking in your pantry and can't see how you're going to feed your family. You aren't looking at losing the business you've spent your savings and your life to establish. You didn't have to face employees to tell them you were letting them go. You think sacrifice is wearing a bandanna to Kroger while you're filling up your cart. Your biggest concern so far is not being able to find something interesting on Netflix to break the daily monotony.

Your words confirm a very troubling trend that is endemic among the political classes and now has spread to the general population. The overwhelming urge to sacrifice OTHERS for whatever panic-induced trauma you imagine while remaining safe to the privations forced on others. You are, in the words of Pink Floyd, comfortably numb.

The "beach people" you think will "bring their infections with them" may need to be imported by cargo plane from New York. Harris County, the epicenter of the virus in Texas, has a published infection case rate that is several orders of magnitude less than Galveston County. If I was visiting, I would run from people like us.

Sad hardly sums it up.

Charlotte O'rourke

I’m always a wondering

Why some people don’t seem to care

That people are a dying in tens of thousands and more

Die in a hurricane and we don’t philosophize

Just as many die from other causes it’s just like before

Economic turmoil has come a calling

It doesn’t allow us to do more

Let’s dance in the quiet

In the eye at night

Those silly health warnings

It’s just Americans a dying and we have died before

Economic turmoil has come a calling

Self sacrifice has gone out the door

Need to make money so move your working butt to the store

It’s just Americans a dying and we have died before

Let’s dance in the quiet and party all night

As American are a dying as never before

Let’s pray together that there are no more.

Remember to be respectful and don’t violate people’s space. They may issues that make them more vulnerable than others.

If you go to the beach use common sense and stay away from the crowded areas.

Kelly Naschke

Charlotte...do you realize the mortality rate associated with Covid 19 in Galveston County is .00007429% of our population whereas the percentage of people that need money to survive is 100%?

Charlotte O'rourke

Hi Leroy, I understand the economic situation as well as the risk of reopening too early. I’m not adverse to trying a reopening, but I’m glad I’m not still a healthcare worker. I’m against being told the plan is based on data, science, and benchmarks when the plan isn’t what is actually being implemented within a timeframe of downward case trends. It started with an upward trend which creates doubt about the rest. I voted for the Governor so it was disappointing.

But it is what it is. A very tough decision. Stay safe and give my best to the family.

Robert Braeking

"Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interest, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions." - Thomas Paine

Bailey Jones

[thumbup] And yet, millions of Americans still voted for him. [thumbup]

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