JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s governor on Friday gave the green light for some beaches and parks to reopen if it can be done safely, and north Florida beaches became among the first to allow people to return since closures because of the coronavirus.
Mayor Lenny Curry said Duval County beaches were reopening Friday afternoon with restricted hours, and they can only be used for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.
The beaches will be open from 6 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m., Curry said in a video posted to social media.
Gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited and people must still practice social distancing.
“Folks, this could be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life, but please respect and follow these limitations,” Curry said. “We’ll get back to life as we know it, but we must be patient.”
In Volusia County, a lot of people are complying with only doing essential activities on the beach but lifeguards have issued 1,100-1,200 warnings due to violations of coronavirus social distancing guidelines. The Volusia County chair hopes Gov. Ron DeSantis and his task force will leave it up to each county to decide what’s best for its residents.
Florida officials were criticized for leaving beaches open during part of the spring break period last month. Most counties closed their beaches in response or kept them open under very restrictive conditions. Other more high-profile beaches in South Florida — including Miami Beach — were closed by state order.
At a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, Gov. Ron DeSantis said some municipalities should feel free to start opening up parks and beaches, if that can be done safely, with distancing guidelines remaining in place.
The governor said it was important for people to have outlets for getting exercise, sunshine and fresh air.
“Do it in a good way. Do it in a safe way,” DeSantis said.