Patrols during a pandemic; sheriff’s office prepares for crowds on the water

NHSO gears up for a busy holiday weekend on the water (Photo: Kylie Jones/WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Masonboro Island is a hotspot for Fourth of July celebrations every year, but coronavirus is posing safety concerns this year as the holiday weekend can draw thousands of people to the small island.

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office is preparing for the crowds.

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“Saturdays, traditionally, have been the biggest. More than several thousand people on the island,” Lt. Jerry Brewer said.

It’s not just the partiers on the island. The water is also even busier than ever.

“Right now, there are more boats on the water in New Hanover County than any other time,” Brewer said. “Most all of our local marinas have sold out of boats, so there are a lot of boats and a lot of new boaters out here. Make sure you follow the rules.”

The Fourth of July brings thousands out to Masonboro Island every year. People and boats,  packed onto the island in masses, not the most COVID-friendly environment.

“So we want you to be smart. Wear your mask. Stay six feet apart as best you can. It’s a holiday. We want you to come out and have fun. Enjoy the island, enjoy the water, but just be smart about what you’re doing,” Brewer said.

Lieutenant Brewer says the sheriff’s office will be patrolling and monitoring the island as usual. He says they’re hoping not to see the tight crowds they usually do.

“We try to educate, is our biggest thing. Educating and making sure people know, ‘hey you need to distance yourself from each other.'”

But the same rules from years past still apply, especially when it comes to boating safety and alcohol restrictions.

“The easiest way to remember it is, if you can buy it at a grocery store, then you’re okay,” Brewer said. “If you have to go to the ABC store, that’s not permitted here. But also, make sure you clean up after yourself.”

Brewer asks everyone to be smart and keep social distancing rules in mind.

“Hopefully everybody’s going to follow the rules the governor has set forth, and we want everybody to come out and have a good time, but just do it lawfully and enjoy your day.”

The sheriff’s office and other agencies will still have dozens of teams patrolling the waterways and Mason’s Inlet as well.

Due to COVID-19, will do its annual cleanup of the island on Sunday.