Florida Beach Packed with Visitors Within Hour of Reopening Despite Social Distancing Order

An executive order limiting social gatherings to fewer than 50 people is still in place

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FLORIDA – APRIL 17: People are seen at the beach on April 17, 2020 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Thursday that Duval County’s beaches would open at 5 p.m. but only for restricted hours and can only be used for swimming, running, surfing, walking, biking, fishing, and taking care of pets. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

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.

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.

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