Florida governor gives green light for some beaches to reopen

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Visitors enjoy Clearwater Beach, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Clearwater Beach, Fla. Beach goers are keeping a safe distance from each other to help protect from the spread of the Coronavirus. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s governor on Friday gave the green light for some beaches and parks to reopen if it can be done safely after being closed because of the coronavirus.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ announcement came as north Florida beaches became among the first to allow allow beach-goers to return since the virus-induced closures.

Mayor Lenny Curry said Duval County’s beaches were reopening Friday afternoon with restricted hours, and they can only be used for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.

The beaches will be open between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Curry said in a video posted to social media.

Gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited and people must still practice social distancing.

“Folks, this could be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life, but please respect and follow these limitations,” Curry said. “We’ll get back to life as we know it but we must be patient.”

Florida officials were criticized for leaving beaches open during spring break last month. Most counties closed their beaches in response or kept them open under very restrictive conditions. Other more high-profile beaches in South Florida — including Miami Beach — were closed by state order.

At news conference in Fort Lauderdale, DeSantis said that some municipalities should feel free to start opening up parks and beaches, if that can be done safely with distancing guidelines remaining in place.

The governor said it was important for people to have outlets for getting exercise, sunshine and fresh air.

“Do it in a good way. Do it in a safe way,” DeSantis said.

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