Florida Governor Allows Some Beaches to Reopen

The sands in Jacksonville will be open to the public from 6 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. each day, but social-distancing rules remain in place.

Beachgoers enjoy a sunny day in Destin, Fla., on March 18, 2020. (Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP, File)

(CN) – Some Florida beaches and parks can reopen during the coronavirus crisis with the caveat of maintaining safety measures, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said Friday. 

The governor emphasized the need for people to get exercise and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.

“Do it in a good way. Do it in a safe way,” DeSantis said at a press conference.  

On Thursday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced that Duval County beaches and other recreation areas would reopen Friday evening for essential activities as defined in an April 1 executive order from DeSantis. 

Essential activities include walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting running or swimming as well as taking care of pets consistent with social-distancing guidelines.

Curry, whose county was the first in Florida to reopen beaches since last month’s closures fueled by the Covid-19 pandemic, said the decision to reopen Jacksonville-area beaches was made in collaboration with law enforcement, first responders and other local officials.  

The sands will be open to the public from 6 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. each day, but firing up the grill or catching rays on a beach towel are strictly outlawed as certain items and group activities are not allowed.

City parks in the area will also be open dawn to dusk, the mayor said, but an order limiting group gatherings to fewer than 50 people anywhere still stands. 

“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life, but please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbors,” Curry said Thursday. 

According to the Florida Department of Health, there are about 24,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the state and 686 people have died as of Friday. Over 235,000 Floridians have been tested.

Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties are home to the majority of Florida’s Covid-19 cases. Miami-Dade has by far the most with over 8,400 cases, accounting for 36% of all cases statewide.

Governor DeSantis said during Friday’s press conference that reopening these areas in the southern part of the state may require a different strategy than the opening of north Florida’s beaches and parks.

As of Thursday evening, the governor said, there were 774 patients in intensive care statewide due to Covid-19 — the lowest level since the beginning of April. 

Curry asked Florida residents to understand that reopening the state will take some time.

“We’ll get back to life as we know it,” the mayor said, “but we must be patient.”

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