The beaches in Jacksonville Beach, Florida reopened at 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon as the state relaxed some of its stay-at-home restrictions. According to local news, residents cheered when the access barriers to the beaches were removed. The mayor of Jacksonville Beach, Charlie Latham, said that despite the reopening, social distancing measures will still apply and officials and lifeguards will be patrolling the waterfront to make sure that people comply.
“How long these beaches remain open is 100% up to the beachgoers,” Latham said when announcing the decision to reopen. “We’re looking to keep people from accumulating out here. If they want to come out and exercise, that’s great. If we have to close the beach again, we’ll do it. Safety is still our top priority.”
Pictures of Jacksonville Beach After Reopening Show a Lot of People Taking Advantage of the Reopening
Pictures of Jacksonville Beach have been shared online and many show groups of people gathering.
Another user pointed out that it appeared people were “largely following rules”:
The Beaches Are Reopening With Some Restrictions to Maintain Social Distancing
The beaches will only be open during limited hours, between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Police and lifeguards will let people know when they are expected to leave the area. Social distancing will have to be observed and there can be no groups of more than 10 people.
Officials say that the beach space is only for exercise such as walking, running, biking and surfing. They have also said that people should not be bringing chairs, coolers, or towels and blankets.
The Decision to Reopen the Beaches Has Caused a Split Reaction From Officials & the Public
Commissioner Omari Hardy of Lake Worth Beach, Florida, was very critical of the move.
He wrote: “When a person doesn’t believe in science, they do dumb things. When a person in power doesn’t believe in science, they do dumb things that hurt the public. This move is so dumb that I had to make sure it wasn’t fake news. You guys, it isn’t fake news.”
The decision to reopen has divided people, with some thinking it can be useful to let people get fresh air and exercise so long as they can continue social distancing, while others believe that it’s inevitable the move will cause a spike in cases.
Florida has been under a stay-at-home regulation since April 3 under Governor Ron De Santis’ “Safer at Home” act. It’s in effect until April 30. This act limits movement outside people’s homes for essential purposes only, like providing or getting essential services.
The reopening of beaches went ahead today as planned despite Florida’s largest single-day increase in cases reported on Friday. The Florida Department of Health said that the number of cases in the state went up by 1,413 on Friday for a total of 24,753. The number of deaths in the state is at 726.