By Don Ford

STINSON BEACH (CBS SF) — Hundreds flocked to Marin County’s Stinson Beach Wednesday as temperatures soared into the low 80s under clear skies.

The recently reopened parking lot was filled to capacity and the beach was literally a sea of people sunbathing. Some were practicing social distancing in this era of COVID-19, while others were not. Few wore required face coverings as they walked about.

Zachary Lafaille was among those visiting the beach.

“This is the most busy I’ve ever seen it,” said LaFaille, who lives in Napa. “But it’s still, people are still following a bit of social distancing and doing their best but, also at a certain point, we’ve been out here for a long time and people have been stuck inside for a long time and I think it now really catching up with everybody.”

Miranda Wells came over from Antioch.

“Even when there’s not COVID, people pretty much stay away from each other at the beach,” she said. “It’s more like privacy so you can do whatever you want in the sand.”

The allure of the clear sky, warn sand and a cool breeze was intoxicating. Still Stinson Beach can absorb only so many people at a time.

“The town reaches a capacity,” Jesse Peri, Stinson Beach Fire Duty Officer, said. ” Once the lots are full, we’re right back to where we were at square one when COVID-19 happened and the lots closed and people start to back up into the town.”

But large crowds like that at Stinson Beach on Wednesday were raising concerns from Marin County health officials, who are nervously watching an uptick in new COVID-19 cases as the restrictions put in place in mid-March to slow the spread of the virus are being eased.

“This week we have seen a significant uptick in COVID-19 transmission countywide,” said Dr. Lisa Santora, Marin County Deputy Health Director, in a video posted on social media Tuesday night.

“On average, we are seeing 20 new cases a day,” she added. “There have been over 600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (since March). Many of these (new) cases are related to Memorial Weekend activities. Over Memorial Day weekend, we saw residents break from shelter in place guidance.”

Santora and her colleagues understand the simmering frustrations of local residents who have been forced to stay inside or near their homes for nearly four months. But they were urging caution when residents did take advantage of the ease restrictions.

“After months of feeling cooped up and disconnected, families went on road trips and neighbors gathered,” she said. “Sometimes wearing face covers, sometimes not. Some time staying 6 feet apart and sometimes not. As we continue to ease shelter in place restrictions we must stay vigilant.”

She was particularly concerned by what she witnessed herself over the past weekend.

“This weekend I saw many packed cars, full of folks, many from different households not wearing face coverings,” Santora said.

She also advised any local residents who has taken part in the peaceful demonstrations, protesting the death of George Floyd or having attended a large family graduation gathering to get tested for the virus.

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