- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday gave the green light for some beaches in northern Florida to reopen, even though the state has continued to see an increase in coronavirus cases.
- As of Friday, Florida had reported over 24,000 cases and nearly 700 deaths.
- DeSantis has received backlash for his handling of his state’s outbreak, first for his refusal to close the beaches during spring break in March and then for his selection of “essential” businesses, which included the WWE Performance Center near Orlando.
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As of Friday, Florida had reported over 24,000 cases of the virus and nearly 700 deaths.
DeSantis, who initially left it up to local officials to close their beaches and other establishments, said at a news conference on Friday that some counties could start reopening their beaches if they wanted, adding that it was important for people to get fresh air, the AP reported.
“Do it in a good way,” DeSantis said. “Do it in a safe way.”
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said beaches in Duval County would reopen from 6 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Meanwhile, St. Johns County, where DeSantis lives, said it would reopen its beaches from 6 a.m. to noon daily.
“Folks, this could be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life, but please respect and follow these limitations,” Curry said in a video on social media, according to the AP. “We’ll get back to life as we know it, but we must be patient.”
Gatherings of 50 or more people are still banned, and people are encouraged to socially distance on the beach as they exercise or do activities like surfing.
“Walk to exercise, not to socialize,” said Dawn C. Allicock, the director of the Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County. “As long as individuals adhere to the CDC guidelines of social distancing, getting exercise and fresh air can be beneficial for our citizens’ physical and mental health.”
DeSantis faced backlash after refusing to issue a statewide order closing Florida’s beaches in March during spring break, leaving local governments to deal with the influx of young people who came to their cities. The New York Times reported last week that tourism is an $86 billion industry for the state.
After DeSantis finally issued a statewide stay-at-home order on April 1, he also said local authorities could not enact stronger restrictions. Since then, he has said that the WWE Performance Center near Orlando is an essential business and has refused to ban church services.