Beaches that were forced to close under coronavirus lockdown measures are beginning to reopen to sunbathers in some U.S. states, with beaches in Florida and South Carolina lifting the restrictions despite advice from health officials.
One beach-goer, Terry Ritchie, said returning to North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina felt like Christmas morning after officials reopened it for public access on Tuesday defying public health official’s guidelines.
In Florida, Cocoa Beach and Satellite beach on Florida’s east coast have also lifted lockdown rules restricting sunbathing and other activities.
People have started to return to beaches in Florida as restrictions on activities such as sunbathing are being lifted across the state
‘It felt like it was Christmas morning with everybody enjoying something different,’ Ritchie said, adding he would take daily walks on the beach with his wife, Susan. ‘We’ve been cooped up for so long and staying out of people’s way, it’s just a pleasure to be out in the sun.’
Most people on the beach obeyed the social distancing measure that are place to keep groups to a minimum and for people to keep a safe distance from one another to limit further spread of the virus.
However according to Myrtle Beach Online, larger groups of teens were seen grouped together with up to 20 others near Garden City Pier, violating the Governor’s three people-to-a-group rule.
Murrells Inlet teen Alec Arditi told the news outlet that he was happy to see the beaches open, and that he didn’t consider it to be an issue to gather with his friends.
‘I definitely will take precautions but obviously it doesn’t look like it but I do, I’m definitely concerned about the coronavirus but I wouldn’t over stress like most people,’ Arditi said. ‘At the end of the day what’s gonna happen is gonna happen.’
While the restrictions are being lifted, other officials are stipulating that social distancing measures, such as keeping distance from others and limiting group numbers, remain
Some people going to the beach at Garden City did share concerns after seeing the larger groups of teenagers gathering throughout the day, fearing beaches could be shut down once again because of their refusal to follow to the restrictions.
‘This is a prime example of what’s going to ruin it for everybody,’ Surfside Beach resident John Sully told Myrtle Beach Online. ‘When they’re young they think they’re made out of teflon and these are the chances they take.’
North Myrtle Beach’s City Council held a vote on Monday night and unanimously agreed to re-open beach access just hours after South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster canceled the two-week-old executive order that closed all public access to the beaches in the state.
This gave local jurisdictions the authority to enforce their own beach rules.
Beach-goers hit the sands as early as 10 a.m. despite the new rules going into effect at midday, showing people’s eagerness to get back on the sand.
Police continued to patrol the beach to enforce the restrictions still in place and city workers removed all police tape and barricades that had been set up to prevent people from entering the beach.
They also reopened crossovers, adjacent parking lots and access showers and bathroom amenities.
Despite what public health officials have said about the risk of the virus continuing to spread if restrictions are lifted too early, officials said reopening the beach accesses is an appropriate measure.
‘We’re putting a lot of confidence in the people of our community but we have a lot of smart people and they’ve done a very good job so far and I’m trusting that they will listen and continue doing the good job that they have done,’ Mayor Marilyn Garden City said.
Pictured: Jacksonville reopened on Friday allowing people to walk, run and ride bikes. Thousands of people were seen on the beaches within 26 minutes of them reopening
Cocoa Beach and Satellite beach on Florida’s east coast have also now lifted most restrictions, allowing sunbathing, sitting in chairs and all other activities within city limits so long as groups are kept to five or less.
Beaches that have opened or are set to open in Florida
According to the following list compiled by the Miami Herald, the following beaches that were closed are now either open or scheduled to reopen in Florida, with varying time and activity restrictions:
- Flagler County on Florida’s East Coast reopened for limited recreational activities on Wednesday, NBC 6 reported.
- Bay County beaches in Florida’s Panhandle will open Friday, April 24, with restricted hours of 6 a.m.-9 a.m. and 5 p.m.-8 p.m., WJHG 7 reported. Bay County includes Panama City Beach, a popular spot for spring breakers.
- Gulf County beaches opened at 5 p.m. Wednesday with the same hours that neighboring Bay County will enforce.
- Okaloosa County will open its beaches on May 1 from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. It’s home to Destin, a popular beach resort.
- Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach in Brevard County are open with social distancing rules intact, Florida Today reported.
According to Floridatoday.com beach-goers were limited to walking, jogging, biking, fishing, surfing and swimming since April 2 under the state’s 30-day ‘safer at home’ initiative.
‘The City would like to thank our community for continuing to abide by the social distancing measures we have put in place at our beaches to safeguard our residents during this pandemic response,’ Satellite Beach City Manager Courtney Barker wrote Facebook post on Tuesday afternoon
‘Since these measures have been put in place, the beaches have been areas of strong compliance, while still giving our residents a place to exercise and relax,’ Barker wrote.
‘As such, the City is now allowing all beach activities to take place, including sunbathing and sitting on the beach. However, we will be limiting activities on the beach to groups of five or less, and we will continue to limit any congregating on the boardwalks,’ she added.
People at the beaches will also have to keep a distance of six feet from others.
Sarasota County officials have also voted unanimously to reopen its beaches on Monday, April 27.
Some social distancing measures will still apply in the county on its 35 miles of beaches.
Many people slammed the decision to reopen beaches in Jacksonville, with coronavirus cases still rising in the state, while others welcomed the move
Lido Beach, however, which is under the city of Sarasota’s jurisdiction will remain closed, as will beach in neighboring Manatee Country.
Permissible activities in Sarasota County will include running, walking, biking, swimming and surfing when they reopen at 6 a.m. on Monday.
Groups will be required to limit their numbers, while people will also need to remain six feet apart from each other. Sunbathing is yet to be permitted.
‘Let’s not jump and go crazy when we open these up; I don’t expect to see a drum circle on Sunday,’ Commissioner Christian Ziegler told WWSB ABC7.
There was uproar on social media when beaches in the Jacksonville area of Florida reopened on Friday at 5pm under limited hours and use restrictions, even as Florida recorded its highest single-day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Photos and video from the scene show enthusiastic residents cheering as they ran out onto the sand after weeks of closures, causing the Twitter hashtag #FloridaMorons to trend on the website.
It was announced that Jacksonville’s beaches will be open daily from 6am to 11am and 5pm to 8pm for exercise such as walking and swimming only. Banned are sunbathing, chairs, towels, or loitering on the shore, and beachgoers are required to remain six feet apart.
According to the New York Times, Florida has had a total of 28,301 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 926 deaths resulting from the disease.
South Carolina has had 4,761 total confirmed cases with 140 deaths resulting from Covid-19.
The U.S. has now seen a total of 856,584 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 48,035 deaths