ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — In ordinary times, the beaches and roads along Florida’s Space Coast would be packed with hundreds of thousands of spectators, eager to witness the first astronaut launch from Florida in nine years.

In the age of coronavirus, local officials and NASA are split on whether that’s a good idea.

NASA and SpaceX are urging spectators to stay at home next Wednesday for safety reasons. Officials in Brevard County, home to the Kennedy Space Center, are rolling out the welcome mat in an effort to jump-start a tourism industry hit hard this spring by coronavirus-related lockdowns.

If people are comfortable coming and watching the launch, “by all means, come. If they aren’t, I respect that too,” said Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey.

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