Whihala Beach in Whiting, Indiana to close indefinitely due to 'alarming disregard' of COVID-19 protocol

WHITING, Ind. (WLS) -- As Chicagoans wait to find out when beaches and pools in the city will be open, the mayor of Whiting, Indiana has announced he's closing Whihala Beach effective Wednesday.

Whihala Beach is located only 20 miles from downtown Chicago. With temperatures in the 80s and 90s lately, it's been a hot spot for people trying to escape the heat with a dip in Lake Michigan.

RELATED: Here's where to find coronavirus testing in Northwest Indiana

But Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura said there has been an "alarming disregard" of all COVID-19 protocol. He said there have been unusually large crowds at Whihala and with the smaller beach area due to the high water levels has made it difficult for people to comply with social distancing requirements and other CDC guidelines.

Stahura said he regrets having to close the beach until further notice, but it's needed to keep people safe.

"A lot of our parking revenue, it pays for all of our staff this year," Stahura said. "It's certainly going to hurt us. But at the same time, I think we need to reset to try to get people to understand that we just have to keep... this virus is not going away."

"It's been neck and neck, back to back, and there's been really close quarters so he got obviously concerned for it spreading," resident Karen Rapchak said.

It's frustrating for many Whiting residents, but many understand the need to try and combat rising COVID19 cases and crowds gathering on these hot summer days.

"There was too many out of town people coming in and absolutely no social distancing happening on the beach at all," resident Georgetta Corona said.

Whiting Lakefront Park will also be closed to vehicular traffic starting Tuesday, though bike and walking trails will remain open for pedestrian use.

Indiana reported 452 new COVID-19 cases and 2 additional deaths Monday.

The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed a total of 52,037 positive coronavirus cases in the state, including 2,569 deaths. There have been 570,409 tests conducted, with a 9.1% positivity rate.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.