Blacktip Island authorities took steps this week to ensure the small Caribbean island’s beaches remain empty by banning residents and visitors alike from landing on the island. (Blacktip Times staff photo by Wendy Beaufort)
Blacktip Island authorities Thursday announced a ban on all visitors to the small Caribbean island to ensure compliance with current social distancing guidelines.
“The island was getting too crowded,” de facto mayor Jack Cobia said. “Folks have to stay 10 feet apart, and for the most part they are, but if we get too many more bodies on this little rock, people’re gonna have to start standing in the sea. With the current rate of arrivals, that’s just a day or two away.
“We’re nipping this in the bud,” Cobia said. “Some folks are upset, but that’s beside the point. This’s a public health issue. We’re not about to have a situation where folks are hanging out offshore in skiffs or on pool floaties. That’s not dignified. Or healthy.”
Residents say the influx is due to the Tiperon Island government allowing access to the island after several months of quarantine.
“When quarantine lifted, a lot of year-round residents who got stuck off island came flooding back,” Rosie Bottoms said. “Wasn’t a big deal at first, but the folks kept coming. Staying 10 feet apart’s tough enough with just a few people around.
“Then all the second-home owners started coming back, too,” Bottoms said. “That’s when we realized it was a no-win situation. We’re already seeing lots of folks with wet feet from walking in the surf to keep their distance.”
Authorities said the ban will be strictly enforced.
“I greet every inbound flight to make sure nobody gets off,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “We got limited real estate on Blacktip. The only way somebody can deplane is if somebody else boards and they swap places.
“It’s an unfortunate necessity,” Marquette said. “Tried spray painting big circles on the ground, but everyone ignored them. I got a list of everyone on-island right now. You’re on the island and not on the list, you get cited. Two offenses, you get to socially distance in the jail cell.”
Some on the island complained the new rule is unfairly restrictive.
“Rafe and Jack, they got no right to say who comes and goes. They’re taking away our freedoms,” Harry Blenny said. “Ain’t seen Christa Goby for months, since she’s stuck over on Tiperon. And end of the day, I just want to go outside, have a beer and holler at my neighbors. Now I can’t.
“All Rafe’s talk on enforcing, I think he’s just bored,” Blenny said. “Or putting on a show for the bosses. He always did like paperwork. Only person happy about this’s ol’ Doc Tang, and that’s just because his wife’s stuck on Tiperon and he ain’t seen her since March.”