Coronavirus comes for spring break: Officials announce Florida beach closures

At the height of the spring break rush, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said he would not order the beaches closed.
Spring break revelers during a game of chicken fight on Tuesday in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Spring break revelers during a game of chicken fight on Tuesday in Pompano Beach, Florida.Julio Cortez / AP
March 19, 2020, 11:17 PM +07 / Source: NBC News
By Elisha Fieldstadt

Local officials in Florida towns and cities are taking it upon themselves to close beaches amid the coronavirus outbreak after Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to, even as spring breakers and others crowd the shores.

At the height of the spring break rush, DeSantis on Tuesday said he would not order the beaches closed, but he did limit parties on beaches to 10 people per group.

DeSantis said it's "not uniform throughout the state that you're seeing massive crowds at beaches," despite reports and images of people packing the sand.

A group of spring break revelers pose for a photograph on Tuesday in Pompano Beach, Florida.A group of spring break revelers pose for a photograph on Tuesday in Pompano Beach, Florida.Julio Cortez / AP

Still, the mayors of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, two of the most popular beach destinations in the state, issued orders to close their beaches this past Sunday.

Public beaches in the city of Tampa are also closed, until further notice, city officials said.

Naples announced Wednesday that it would close its beaches until March 30.

All public beaches in Miami-Dade County will close as of Thursday night, Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez announced Wednesday. Parks, nonessential retail, private educational facilities, casinos and other recreational and entertainment activities, are also ordered closed or restricted as of Thursday night, he said.

On the state's Gulf Coast, beaches in Lee County will also close Thursday night, according to county officials. Popular beach vacation destinations Fort Myers and Sanibel are located in Lee.

On Wednesday, Clearwater voted to close its beaches starting Monday, March 23.

Clearwater Beach was relatively busy Wednesday with locals and visitors who said they chose not to cancel planned vacations over coronavirus fears.

"I feel like we're not gonna stop our life because of that, but we're definitely keep precautions," said Anamaria Nowak, 20, who was there with a friend. "We didn't come with a group of friends. We're gonna stay by ourselves and not share our things."

College students in general have been criticized for not taking the virus seriously and for seeming to disregard that they could carry it to higher-risk people like the elderly.

Nearly 330 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19, the state's department of health reported Wednesday night. Eight Florida residents have died.

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