The return of crowds to Florida's beaches as health officials plead with people to continue social distancing efforts to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic has Twitter speaking out. After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' decision to allow local beachfront governments to decide whether or not to reopen their beaches Friday, photographs of a busy Jacksonville beach quickly spread across social media, even prompting "#FloridaMorons" to trend.
After DeSantis' announcement, Duval and St. Johns counties reopened their beaches to the public on the same day Florida reported 58 deaths from COVID-19 — its highest daily death toll since the pandemic's start. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County officials said they are considering following suit, according to The Washington Post. While DeSantis' announcement included guidelines to the municipalities to consider social distancing guidelines in their decision to reopen the beaches, photos of the beaches shared online showed people far closer than the 6-foot recommended distance.
DeSantis told reporters, as per the Post, that he thought it was important Florida residents be able to exercise outside amid the pandemic: "I get a kick out of somebody jogging on the beach in California, like all by his lonesome, and you have a fleet of cops go out there," he said. "He's just jogging. Going forward, I think we’ve got to be promoting people to get exercise."
Friday, as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced that Duval County beaches would reopen, he claimed the lifting of the restrictions could be the start of "the pathway back to normal life," saying in a video to citizens, "Folks, this could be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life, but please respect and follow these limitations. We'll get back to life as we know it, but we must be patient."
After President Donald Trump announced on April 16 that he would allow governors to take the reigns on when and how to reopen businesses in their states amid the pandemic, the White House's Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, said during the Saturday briefing that she wouldn't second-guess the choice to reopen Florida 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," Birx said. As of Sunday evening, Florida had at least 26,314 cases of coronavirus, and 774 Florida residents had died, according to the Florida Department of Health.