By Vince Gerasole

CHICAGO (CBS) — Even going to the beach is complicated in the coronavirus era.

They’re still closed in Chicago, but head up north and there’s a different story. CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole has more from Evanston, where it’s first come, first served.

That’s because of capacity limits. Beaches have new rules in place. For instance, entrance is limited, But that hasn’t stopped attendance from rising.  In the first week of operations, Evanston Beach attendance is up 5% from last year. The city said it would have been up even more if it were not for COVID-19 restrictions.

On a hot steamy day, who wouldn’t want to spend time at the beach? But this is the summer of COVID-19, nearby Chicago beaches are off limits. So folks are flocking to Evanston and its four beaches that opened July 1.

“We are all from high school together, three graduates,” said Wynonna Rodriguez from Chicago’s Belmont Craigen neighborhood. “All the beaches in Chicago are closed, so we decided to take a drive.”

“I’ve never been to this beach. Usually we are in Chicago but we can’t be today,” added Angelina Reyes, from Belmont Craigen.

Fun in the sun comes with capacity limits of 50%. But in a year that’s seen significant lakefront erosion, there’s less beach to go around.

“I don’t want to get close to people, but I don’t mind being here as long as you keep your distance,” Reyes said.

It means beach goers can have wait times on occasion up to 15 minutes at times, waiting in socially distanced lines along a fence.

“We brought our wipes, hand sanitizers. We got our water bottles,” Reyes said.

Other rules in Evanston include staying home if you are sick or live with an at risk person, keeping six feet away from the nearest group and wearing face coverings at entry points or when encountering staff. This applies to all age two and older.

“We are still social distancing. We are all the way back here,” Reyes said.

On the shrinking stretches of sand, it appeared distancing could be a challenge, but not impossible, proving a day at the beach isn’t what is used to be.

“Just keeping my distance from everyone and having a good time,” Rodriguez said.

Other changes in Evanston: no concession stands and drinking fountains are turned off.

Vince Gerasole