Florida came under fire this week as tourist stops like Clearwater Beach were packed full of people in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. The infamous spring break spot was crowded, judging by aerial footage published by WFLA News. People on social media had some harsh words for the beach-goers.
People all around the U.S. are slowly adapting to the new measures instituted to slow the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic outbreak of coronavirus. It is taking some time, however, and in many places this week, it was jarring to see large crowds still gathering. One of the biggest examples was Clearwater Beach in Florida, where hundreds of people partied their days away as if nothing had changed.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people in the U.S. to practice social distancing — commonly referred to online as "quarantine" or "isolation." This means avoiding any large gathering or crowded area as much as possible, including offices, restaurants and even stores.
The CDC has said that it is still safe to visit parks or hiking trails in groups of less than 10 people, as long as you can stay at least six feet away from others while you are out. However, this is just a guideline, and the crowded beaches in Clearwater do not seem to be observing even that precaution.
After footage of Clearwater Beach went viral, the local government did take action. According to a report by The Tampa Bay Times, Clearwater Beach was closed starting on Thursday. Local authorities say the crowds have already thinned out, but the backlash online has not died down.
Here is what Twitter had to say about revellers on Clearwater Beach this week.
These are all tourist. A Floridian would never go to Clearwater beach. https://t.co/gH1cP69jHY— Joe (@Joseph__Diamond) March 17, 2020
Before you start barking about Clearwater Beach and dumb Floridians, take a moment to understand most of these ppl are TOURISTS and they're coming back to YOU. pic.twitter.com/EJZSm1kkco— 😡 Cranky MMA Fan 😡 (@crankymmafan) March 16, 2020
Proud Floridians begged the rest of the country to recognize that it was tourists, not locals crowding the beaches this week. Many shared anecdotes of how seriously they and their neighbors were taking social distancing, as they did not want to be lumped in with the crowds on the beaches.
All these people on Clearwater Beach. Where have I seen this before. Oh yeah..... pic.twitter.com/fdvLd4kijo— Big E (@ian693) March 16, 2020
Some saw the crowded beaches as an eerily visualization of the statistics and graphs they have been shown about the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, one user even layered a plot point graph over the video, making it look as if the people represented statistics bouncing around an X, Y axis.
BUSY BEACH! This is what @MyClearwater Beach looks like right now as spring break crowds flock to the sand. #Clearwater leaders haven't decided if they should add a curfew or close beaches but they may vote on measures related to the #coronavirus this Thursday. @abcactionnews pic.twitter.com/jGoxQdYJg5— Sarah J. Hollenbeck (@SarahHollenbeck) March 16, 2020
Some people shared photos from the beach at the ground level, rather than an aerial shot. They remarked on how eerie it was to see people acting as if everything was normal when they faced such a serious public health crisis.
Do not blame the residents of Clearwater Beach. Those are Spring Breakers: A group of people never known for making smart decisions. https://t.co/La6I9BjXri— Jen (@TuschyFace) March 16, 2020
Many people went further than calling the beach-goers tourists — they specified that they were "spring breakers," likely young students. They argued that forethought was not what people in this demographic were known for.
Can we please get this straight? These are not millenials. These people are GEN Z. Millenials are all over the age of 23 right now, most millennials are NOT participating in spring break. Every young person being a jerk is not automatically a millennial.— Hannah Schwartz (@hanngphi55) March 17, 2020
While generalizations like "tourists" and "spring breakers" may have held, there was some fierce debate about generational labels like "millenials" this week. Many people pointed out that the age range for millenials is now roughly between 25 and 40, and that if any single generation is on the beach, it is likely the college-age Generation Z.
Still, even this caused some debate. Writer Jason Lee wrote an op-ed for NBC News this weekend arguing that it was not productive nor was it fair to pin the blame for ongoing coronavirus spread on a single generation. He pointed out generalizations for each age group, and argued that the issue was systemic, not generational.
BREAKING: Mayor of Clearwater Beach, Florida addresses Coronavirus concerns. pic.twitter.com/omJBKM7fLN— Jackson Banks (@WriterBanks) March 16, 2020
Of all the movie references to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most eerie was the comparison between Clearwater Beach this weekend and Amity Island in the 1974 movie Jaws. Plenty of people equated the germ-ridden beaches with the shark-infested waters of the Steven Spielberg classic.
Governor do we have an issue on Clearwater beach? @GovRonDeSantis #coronavirus I mean this is a ton of people and I'm working from home and so are millions of others. What say you Governor?? https://t.co/FLXFBaW8xM— Debra Garrett (@debragarrett) March 16, 2020
BREAKING: Clearwater just voted to close Clearwater Beach, the nation's top beach, effective on Monday for two weeksMarch 18, 2020
Many people angered by the sight of the beaches tagged their local and state officials on Twitter, asking them to take action on the crowded beaches. Finally, the county opted to close all beaches starting on Thursday.
Visit the CDC's website for the latest news and tips on the coronavirus pandemic.