SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – Texas’ southern beach of South Padre Island was slammed the first weekend of May after Governor Greg Abbott announced on May 1st COVID-19 shelter-in-place and business restrictions would be relaxed.
Somehow, the lifted restrictions were understood as a ‘let’s go outside’ and thousands jammed the roads to South Padre Island, “There was more traffic this weekend than on Easter and during spring break,” said City of Port Isabel Marketing Director Valerie Bates.
March’s Spring Break was nearly non-existent by traditional tourism standards and April’s Easter weekend travel didn’t happen either as much of the country was under shelter-in-place conditions, “The beach is the Number one destination that people wanted to do when they were able to get out and travel” said Bates and video from surveillance cameras at the base of the Queen Isabela Causeway showed bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours.
The traffic is an obvious business indicator according to Bates. Port Isabel and South Padre Island share successes and failures when it comes to tourism dollars, “It was a surprise for everybody to come at one time,” said Grapevine Cafe Manager Gino Puedan, one of the businesses hit hard by COVID-19’s drop in tourism.
CBS4/LOCAL 23 shared footage of the mass amounts of traffic and beachgoers on Facebook with many concerned the relaxed restrictions could lead a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Grapevine Cafe recognized the concerns, “It was good to see it [the business] but at the same time it’s like, are still following six feet, social distancing, are they practicing that, and so that’s something that we can’t control but we can control it indoors and in this business.”