GULL ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — Hundreds of boats congregated Friday around a small island in Lake St. Clair in an annual celebration of water and sun that was expected to place thousands of people at odds with Michigan’s rules intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
No people or groups organized the event known as the Jobbie Nooner, which attracts boaters from across the state to Gull Island, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) northeast of Detroit.
Once at the island, many people leave their boats to wade in the shallow water or congregate on shore.
Police monitor the event each year, enforcing local alcohol and safe boating laws. Officers on Friday would be wearing personal protective equipment due to the coronavirus pandemic, St. Clair County sheriff’s office Marine Division Sgt. Marty Stoyan told WXYZ-TV.
“We’re not going to be able to enforce social distancing due to the fact of a large amount of people,” Stoyan said. “I for sure see that this is a very big possibility of spreading the COVID.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order to fight the virus says people should stay 6 feet away from people who don’t live in their households, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Violations can carry 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Whitmer has warned that if people fail to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines the spread of the disease will increase.
Sam Day told WJBK-TV that he planned to attend Jobbie Nooner, despite virus concerns.
“ … you are already on your boat,” he said. “You are already separated from others. Hopefully, you’re going out with people you trust. My friends who have boats are talking about excluding people they are letting onto their boats. It won’t be a free for all.”