Florida Beaches Reopen, and Crowds Flock

Governor relaxes rules, but not all are sticking to social-distancing guidelines
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2020 6:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Fresh off of deeming the WWE an essential business, Florida is again raising eyebrows over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light on Friday to local communities to reopen their beaches, and some of them did not hesitate to take him up on the offer; that included Jacksonville, whose mayor called the move the "beginning of the pathway back to normal life." DeSantis urged would-be beachgoers to "do it in a good way. Do it in a safe way," but USA Today reports that "people came faster than a seagull chasing a french fry" and a CNN reporter noted that "it was a mad dash here for the ocean."

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Photos of crowded beaches that were decidedly not within social distancing limits lit up the internet, reports the Washington Post, as did the hashtag #FloridaMorons. The Post notes that DeSantis' announcement came on the day that the Sunshine State suffered its highest number of virus-related casualties, with 58. Dr. Deborah Birx, member of the White House task force, said she would not second-guess the decision to reopen the beaches. "If the county health directors believe that that's appropriate for their county, then I'm not going to second judge an individual's approach to this," she said. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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