An executive order limiting social gatherings to fewer than 50 people is still in place
As some beaches in Florida reopened on Friday for the first time in nearly a month, not everybody seemed to heed government warnings about social distancing.
As soon as the ban lifted at 5 p.m. local time, crowds of cheering people quickly descended upon Jacksonville Beach, according to CNN, which noted that several beach visitors were seen sunbathing, an activity Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had specifically said would be prohibited.
Photos also showed people running on the very crowded beach, playing volleyball with friends and surfing within the first hour the beach was open to the public again.
In an effort to enforce proper guidelines, police were also spotted issuing warnings to people and a sign that flew over the beach warned: “Do your part. Stay 6 feet apart. Help keep beaches open,” according to the New York Post.
Under current government mandates, all social gatherings must be limited to 50 people or less.
RELATED: Florida Beaches Begin to Reopen Friday Following Coronavirus Shutdown
The amounts of people who were seen out and about at the beach created a social media backlash, as many on Twitter expressed concern about how the behavior of some could affect Florida as a whole.
“Florida reopened some beaches today & they were packed. I guess in a way it makes perfect Florida-sense. To try to get a little sun so you look healthy at your funeral,” Bette Midler said.
“I live in Florida and I don’t want to die! Yesterday we had the highest number of new cases of COVID-19, and what does GOP Governor DeSantis do? He opens beaches!” wrote one local resident. “I just don’t want to die. I don’t want my friends or family to die!”
Amid the backlash, many Twitter users also expressed their displeasure at Florida Gov. Ron Desantis by sharing a video in which he could be seen incorrectly putting on a mask during a live television broadcast.
Florida reported an increase of over 1,400 new cases on Friday, the largest amount of new reported cases to date, according to the Tampa Bay Times. As of April 18, there have been at least 24,745 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, and 726 people have died, according to a New York Times database.
RELATED VIDEO: Florida Beaches Packed With People Despite Coronavirus Concerns
Earlier this week, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made the announcement that parks and beaches in Duval County would reopen so long as visitors followed social distancing guidelines and only participate in ” essential activities ” – which include walking, biking, running and swimming.
“Just to be clear, this is an opportunity for people to come out to the beach to exercise a couple of times a day. It’s not a sunbathing opportunity,” Latham said in a statement, according to NBC News.
He went on to note that should the guidelines not be followed, the beaches could potentially be closed again.
“We can’t stress enough that how long the beaches will stay open will be 100 percent determined by the beachgoers,” he added. “As long as everyone complies by the times, guidelines, the social distancing, we will be okay. We want you to be able to use the beach as an asset and enjoy yourself, but we have to maintain the safety factor.”
The beaches will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. local time and then again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time.
Most Florida cities shuttered their beaches by mid-May, after photos went viral that showed citizens and spring breakers continuing to congregate and defy social distancing guidelines
Curry first closed Jacksonville beaches “indefinitely” on March 20. Those who violated the order were charged with trespassing – a measure Curry deemed necessary in order to slow the spread of the virus.
“This is for everyone’s safety,” he said in a statement at the time. “We must stop this virus. We must stop the spread. We must practice social distancing.”
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