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Long Beach officially shuts down Boardwalk after rise in foot traffic there and increasing numbers of coronavirus cases

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Long Beach officials took the extraordinary step Thursday of closing the 2.2-mile Boardwalk because of a rising number of coronavirus cases on the barrier beach and continuing foot traffic.

John McNally, the newly-appointed executive assistant to Long Beach City Manager Donna Gayden, said the drastic action was made by the City Manager and the City Council in consultation with all department heads.

According to the Nassau County Health Department, there are 56 reported cases off coronavirus on the barrier beach, and experts predict the number will go higher.

The Boardwalk will be closed as of 8 pm Thursday, McNally said. He said pleasant early spring weather had encouraged people to come to the Boardwalk, and nicer weather predicted in the days ahead is expected to bring out even more of a crowd.

McNally said the Boardwalk will remain close "for the duration" of the pandemic.

The beach will remain open, but the closing of the Boardwalk from Neptune Avenue to New York Avenue, a distance of 2.2 miles, will make access to the beach difficult.

McNally said the decision was not made lightly. "This is a matter of life and death," he said late Thursday, "The numbers of people on the Boardwalk and the number of cases is just too high."

The Boardwalk is Long Beach's prime attraction, visited by hundreds during the warm weather and thousands during summer holiday weekends,.Much of the Boardwalk was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, but has been repaired under massive federal government programs.

All restaurants on the barrier beach are offering take-out services only, and most stores are closed, as are Long Beach schools.

Long Beach officials have been monitoring foot traffic on the Boardwalk over the past few days, They had already shut down exercise stations, which contain china bars, and signs were posted warning people to practicer six-feet of social distance,.