Aerial snapshots of people flocking to a reopened beach in Jacksonville, Fla., made waves on the Internet on Saturday.
Local news aired photos and videos of Florida’s shoreline dotted with people, closer than six feet apart, spurring #FloridaMorons to trend on Twitter after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) gave the go-ahead for local beachfront governments to decide whether to reopen their beaches during a news briefing Friday. Duval and St. Johns counties have reopened their beaches, while Miami-Dade County officials said they are considering following suit.
On the same day that Florida reported 58 deaths from the novel coronavirus — its highest daily toll since the pandemic began — DeSantis told reporters that it’s essential that Floridians get exercise outdoors.
“I get a kick out of somebody jogging on the beach in California, like all by his lonesome, and you have a fleet of cops go out there,” he said. “He’s just jogging. Going forward, I think we’ve got to be promoting people to get exercise.”
While DeSantis never ordered a statewide closures of beaches, his comment Friday gave the green light to local officials such as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry (R), who announced that Duval County’s beaches would reopen Friday. Curry banned certain items, including towels and chairs, and limited hours to 6 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. to deter people from gathering for a long time.
“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Curry said. “Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbors.”
The droves that showed up at Jacksonville’s beach largely ignored Curry’s restrictions. “People were seen swimming, biking, surfing, running and fishing,” CNN reported. Saturday evening, people were still flocking to multiple Florida beaches, but officials said it wasn’t a problem.
“While there was a large crowd when the beaches reopened, people are following guidelines,” said Nikki Kimbleton, Curry’s spokeswoman. “There’s been a vast difference in crowd size since that initial 5 p.m. Friday opening.”
In a Saturday tweet, Curry wrote: “Spoke to Sheriff Williams @jsosheriff a few minutes ago. He said all Beaches are pretty much clear and They, Deputies @JSOPIO, had no issues neither did the beaches agencies….the community responded. Good work Jacksonville.”