Many Americans celebrated the 2020 Memorial Day weekend alongside the lifting of months-old shelter in place rules. Some embraced the opportunity to get to the beach, while others elected to stay at home.
Those to the South and Southeast shrugged-off pandemic concerns to hit the beach in record numbers, while those in California and to the Northeast mostly stayed home.
Alabama, where COVID-19 infection rates are aggressively climbing, had the highest growth: an increase in visitors of 147% versus 2019, or nearly 2.5x as many people. Just along the coast in Louisiana, the number of beach-goers more than doubled versus 2019, with a 119% rise in visits.
Meanwhile, Texas saw 98% more visitors to beach towns near three Lone Star hot zones for both sun and COVID-19: Brownsville, Corpus Christi and Galveston.
Florida saw an increase of about 53% versus Memorial Day 2019, the exception being Florida’s east coast, which saw only modest traffic increases. Beaches in both Georgia (+80%) and South Carolina (+40%) recorded sharp increases versus 2019, as well.
In U.S. states where COVID-19 restrictions have been greater and reopening slower, the opposite pattern is true, i.e. there were fewer beach visitors this Memorial Day weekend versus in 2019.
New England and California both reported visitation between 40% and 50% lower than last year's. New Jersey (-60%) and Delaware (-54%) had less than half of 2019’s visitors, while Maryland (-50%) and California (-45%) came close to that mark. All other East Coast states saw beach visitation reduced by at least 15%.
Rain or shine, even in the COVID-19 era, it is difficult to keep Americans inside on Memorial Day weekend.
A “beach visitor” in this analysis was any device observed within 100m of US shorelines (as defined by the US Geological Survey’s public data sets).
We aggregated the counts of these unique device IDs within the time periods in question (Fri - Mon, Memorial Day Weekend 2019 & 2020) to the state level to allow for an apples-to-apples comparison between 2019 and 2020.