Why Were Florida’s Beaches Even Open To Spring Breakers Amid The Coronavirus Outbreak?

Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez.
A rising number of millennials are being hospitalized for coronavirus. This is despite recommendations to practice social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Against the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations to only gather in groups of 10 or less, far too many people, who are both millennials and Gen Z, took a spring break trip to Florida’s beaches last week, which have not yet been closed statewide by Gov. Ron DeSantis. 
The mayors of popular Florida spring break destinations including Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa Bay, and Naples have closed the beaches locally, which were packed with people who were not staying at least six feet apart, over the past week. However, the governor still hasn’t closed all of Florida’s beaches despite ordering the closing of gyms, fitness centers, and banning in-restaurant dining but allowing them to remain open for deliveries. On Tuesday, March 17, DeSantis finally issued guidelines for “no group on a beach more than 10 and you have to have distance apart if you're going to be out there," as a statewide order.
Advertisement
On Thursday, DeSantis doubled down, saying he had no plan to close Florida’s beaches and pointed to the U.S. Surgeon General to explain why. “[The government] wants you to social distance, of course. But they actually encourage people to get fresh air,” he said, via Politico. “They just don’t want you congregating in big groups. And so if you have a Floridian that goes and walks their dog, like a married couple on the beach, as long as you're not within six feet of each other, they view that as a healthy thing.”
DeSantis stated that he supports the decisions made by local officials to close beaches, saying, “but since I issued my directive, anybody who’s put that in place — spring break’s done. Any place to go for bars and all this — done. They don’t have a place to go.”
However, experts worry that DeSantis is not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough and needs to put in place more drastic measures to promote social distancing for non-essential workers, including Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. On Saturday, She called for a state-wide “stay-at-home order” for all non-essential workers, which is similar to what the governors of California, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey have ordered.
In a letter to DeSantis, Fried wrote that “shutting down one of the nation’s largest states is a decision that will have an economic impact — but it is a decision that will save lives.” 
DeSantis has previously stated he would not order people to stay in their homes unless it was absolutely necessary. On Friday, he said he would continue to promote social distancing. “That’s a more sustainable model,’’ he said. “And the more people are shut in, I think the more anxious they get.”
Advertisement
Florida has seen the rate of infections grow “more than seven-fold in the last week” with more than 200 new confirmed cases, bringing the state total to 763, according to The Miami Herald. There have been 12 confirmed deaths from COVID-19. 
Critics of DeSantis also claim there is substantial evidence that Florida is historically slow to act in emergencies like this. Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, a Florida native, painted a frightening picture of what doctors will have to contend with in the face of coronavirus due to DeSantis’ inaction. 
Due to an overwhelming amount of cases and a lack of medical equipment, Stern wrote that doctors will have to choose “which lives are worth saving from COVID-19, a ghastly dilemma they might have had to face less often had DeSantis followed other governors in shutting down schools, beaches, bars, restaurants, and theme parks much earlier in an effort to flatten the curve.”
For now, the majority of those cases are in South Florida, but Mark Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Miami Herald that “more stringent measures are needed” to stop statewide spread. Especially in a state where more than 20% of the state’s 21.5 million residents are over 65, according to the United States Census Bureau. Those over 60 and those with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are considered the most vulnerable to get coronavirus, according to the CDC. 
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.
Related Content:
Advertisement

More from US News

R29 Original Series