SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. – Spring break means massive crowds at Central Florida beaches, but amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus, the state is cracking down on beachgoers.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday issued an executive order stating that beachgoers must adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines concerning COVID-19.
“I direct parties accessing public beaches in the state of Florida to follow the CDC guidance by limiting their gathering to no more than 10 persons, distance themselves from other parties by 6 feet, and support beach closures at the discretion of local authorities," DeSantis said.
Tuesday evening the Cocoa Beach City Commission granted City Manager Jim McKnight emergency powers.
Cocoa Beach Mayor Ben Malik said the city will begin managing crowd control on the beaches during the coronavirus pandemic to comply with the CDC guidelines.
“We do not want people coming to the beach, current crowd levels are too high per the CDC guidance levels,” Malik said in an email. “Decisions will be made in the next few days to limit beach access to control the crowd size. Now is not the time to drive over to the coast, we will be updating and notifying the press as things are very fluid and we are also talking with other local beach communities.”
Satellite Beach police said officers will crack down on violators at area beaches.
“At this time, the Satellite Beach Police Department will be patrolling beaches in Satellite Beach to enforce the party size and distance measures being taken statewide to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Police Chief Jeff M. Pearson said in a statement on Facebook. “Please abide by the executive order and adhere to the required standards of limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people and maintaining 6 feet between parties at the beach.”
With the state shutting down bars and the extended closure of schools, Florida beaches have been packed.
Volusia beach safety officials said lifeguards made nearly 50 water rescues Tuesday.
“We are on the beach. We are in an open atmosphere, which I think we can use to our advantage, but one that we’re also prepared for to deal with the groups we’re seeing because we are seeing a lot (of people)," said Ray Manchester, of Volusia County Beach Safety.
Manchester said lifeguards and toll workers are equipped with supplies, including gloves and hand sanitizer, to keep them safe from coronavirus.
Officials said lifeguards will use a loudspeaker if they witness any large gatherings on the beach. Those who disobey warnings could be subjected to a second-degree misdemeanor charge, according to county leaders.