Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is allowing some beaches in northern Florida to reopen, The Associated Press reported on Friday, even though the state continues to see an increase in coronavirus cases and deaths.
As of Friday afternoon, the Florida Department of Health had reported 24,753 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 726 deaths.
DeSantis, who initially left it up to local officials to close their beaches and other establishments, said at a news conference in Fort Lauderdale on Friday that some counties could start reopening their beaches if they wanted.
The governor said some municipalities should feel free to start opening up parks and beaches, if that can be done safely, with distancing guidelines remaining in place.
He added that it was important for people to have outlets for getting exercise, sunshine and fresh air.
“Do it in a good way. Do it in a safe way,” DeSantis said.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Duval County beaches were reopening Friday afternoon with restricted hours, and they can only be used for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.
The beaches will be open from 6 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m., Curry said in a video posted to social media.
Gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited and people must still practice social distancing.
“Folks, this could be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life, but please respect and follow these limitations,” Curry said. “We’ll get back to life as we know it, but we must be patient.”
“Walk to exercise, not to socialize,” said Dawn C. Allicock, the director of the Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County. “As long as individuals adhere to the CDC guidelines of social distancing, getting exercise and fresh air can be beneficial for our citizens’ physical and mental health.”
At the same press conference, DeSantis was seen repeatedly touching his face and mouth.
Gov. DeSantis says the state sent out 35,000 unemployment payments last week; this week: 100,000. pic.twitter.com/fAMEwVjF3v
— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) April 17, 2020
Well, this is one way to put on a mask. It’s not the right way, but it’s the @GovRonDeSantis way.
— Kevin Cate (@KevinCate) April 17, 2020