Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio tells New Yorkers to likely expect a beach-free summer this year

By Hannah Chubb
April 17, 2020 05:04 PM
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Beaches in Jacksonville, Florida, reopened at 5pm on Friday after shutting down nearly a month ago in response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). It is the first city in the state to make this decision.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made the announcement on Thursday, indicating that parks and beaches in Duval County would once again accept visitors, as long as they follow social distancing guidelines and only participate in “essential activities.”

Essential activities, as defined by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in an executive order signed on April 1, include “walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.”

Curry explained that Duval County beaches would reopen with reduced hours: 6am to 11am, and 5pm to 8pm. He also indicated that “public gathering areas,” like pavilions and picnic areas, would be closed as a means of encouraging social distancing, reinforcing his executive order that social gatherings must be limited to 50 people or less.

“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” the mayor continued in the statement. “Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety, as well as for the safety of your neighbors.”

Most Florida cities had shuttered their beaches by mid-May, after photos went viral of swarms of citizens and spring breakers continuing to congregate and defy social distancing guidelines.

Chris O'Meara/AP/Shutterstock
Chris O'Meara/AP/Shutterstock

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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In New York City, however, Mayor Bill de Blasio made a very different statement about his city’s beaches in a press conference on Thursday.

In response to questions about New Yorkers being able to visit the city’s beaches — including popular spots like Coney Island and Rockaway Beach — de Blasio said “we don’t have that in our sights yet.”

He explained that these locations draw “hundreds of thousands of people packed close together,” and therefore proper social distancing can not be practiced.

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“We can’t plan on summer right now. It’s the simplest way to say it,” the mayor continued, noting that the opening of city pools is also questionable at this time.

“Every one of us would love to have our summer, or some part of our summer,” he continued. “But keep expectations low for now.”

As of Friday afternoon, there have been 222,284 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York state and 12,192 deaths. In Florida, there have been 24,111 confirmed cases and 685 deaths.

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