Covid-19 At the Beach
COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of American life, and the small beach community of Weekapaug, Rhode Island is no exception.
Located in the town of Westerly, Weekapaug is a fire district in Rhode Island with an area that is less than a square mile. It is largely populated between Labor Day and Columbus Day. The community is composed of two beaches, tennis courts, one candy and sandwich shop, one boathouse and homes – many of which are rented out during the summer months. It is also home to the Weekapaug Inn, the only hotel in the community.
Julia Kennish, a 20-year old college student said she has been coming to Weekapaug every summer since she was born. Her family has a long history in the town, but Julia said neither she nor her family could recall a summer like that of 2020.
“It was definitely missing life this summer,” Kennish said.
Kennish also said that rentals were down this summer.
“A lot of people just weren’t comfortable with renting to strangers,” she said.
Kennish and three of her college friends have decided to take the year off from their studies at Harvard. Three of them are completely remote internships and one is completing Harvard courses online.
“It wasn’t what any of us wanted our college experience to look like,” Kennish said. “But we’re making the best of it I guess.”
One of the most significant differences between the summer of 2020 and previous summers in Weekapaug was restricted access to the beaches. This summer, only 100 people were allowed on Fenway Beach at one time. Additionally, strict social distancing guidelines were enforced on both beaches.
The Weekapaug Innlet, the only business in the community, suffered as a result of the pandemic. What is usually a place where children marveled over candy and large groups convened over lunch turned into a shop where customers had to wait six feet apart in line, order from the window and take their meals to go. Hours were also restricted and the shop closed for the season earlier than it usually would because of Covid-19.
The Weekapaug Tennis Club also had a very different summer than those of the past. Large clinics were drastically decreased in size. Other safety protocols were also put into place, such as rules forbidding players to pick up their own balls during lessons. This meant that only employees of the club could pick them up, resulting in less contact between players.
While the circumstances of this summer were not particularly favorable, Weekapaug residents are looking forward to restoring their community to what it once was.
“I just hope next summer we get our town back,” Kennish said.