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Beaches around Jacksonville reopened Friday afternoon, and Floridians were quick to get back to the sand even as the state reached a record number of coronavirus cases. The hashtag #FloridaMorons started trending on Twitter Saturday amid photos of crowded beaches in the Jacksonville area. Although Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light to reopen some of the beaches and parks that had closed during the coronavirus crisis, it is up to local governments to make the final decision.
Duval County decided to open its beaches Friday evening, saying people would be allowed to go between 6 to 11 a.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. with restrictions, including a prohibition on sunbathing and any type of group activity. People were supposed to keep distance from one another, but “it appears that the stir-crazy crowds weren’t following the social distancing rules,” reports the Miami Herald.
While many tweeted photos of the packed beaches, others were quick to see the glass half full and insisted people were keeping appropriate distance and following the rules. One of those was Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who retweeted an aerial photo that showed a pretty empty beach. Other residents who went to the beach agreed with that assessment. “People were in constant movement. I saw everybody walking and moving and minding their six, seven, 10 feet away from each other. It was certainly not chaos by any means. It was exactly what you would have wanted to see on your beach if you decided to open the beaches today,” one resident who went to St. Augustine Beach on Saturday told the Associated Press. “There were no beach chairs.”
Some Floridians were extremely eager to get back to the beach. In St. Johns County, for example, people were parked waiting for the beach to reopen at 6 a.m. Officials said the beaches there would be open from 6 a.m. until noon only for physical activity. Hundreds were on the beach by 7 a.m., according to local reports. And just because beaches were closed doesn’t mean that some people didn’t go anyway. “COVID-19 is not here, bro,“ a surfer told News4Jax as he left the beach Friday night. “We’ve been out here the whole time, just having fun, man.”
The restrictions on Florida beaches were being lifted as the state saw its highest number of new COVID-19 cases since the outbreak began. But the number of new cases declined again Saturday. Across the state, there are a total of 25,492 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 748 have died from the virus.