the beaches open, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he has no regrets for allowing people to use the public space and even compared the beaches to the New York City subway system.
“Do you hear the same people complaining about the New York City subway system being open?” he said at a press conference on Saturday. “I mean, give me a break. Which one is more conducive to having Covid-19 spread or any respiratory virus? It’s not even close.”
He went on to say residents in NYC are “packed in like sardines” when riding the subway compared to Floridians out in the open on the beaches.
A spokesperson with the Metropolitan Transit Association (MTA), which runs the NYC subway, criticised Mr DeSantis’ comments for comparing the subway to the beaches.
“Keeping the beaches open does not get doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, grocery and food delivery employees to and from work – the subways do and there is nothing more essential,” the spokesperson told the New York Daily News. Police officers are also working in NYC to limit the number of people in train cars to prevent riders being “packed in like sardines”.
Mr DeSantis claimed residents were practising social distancing on the beaches, which was enforced by authorities in each area.
But footage from Saturday showed St Johns County beaches packed with beachgoers, many of whom were not practising social distancing measures asked by the federal government. These pictures circulated on Twitter, with many calling for the beaches to close statewide over fears that them remaining open would impact the spread of the virus.
It was later announced by officials that St Johns County beaches would be closed starting Sunday.
“We have taken as many measures as possible up to this point to preserve our residents’ ability to access their beach. Unfortunately, those visiting the beach continue to ignore CDC guidelines regarding crowd size and personal distancing. In order to maintain public safety and respect the State of Florida’s Executive Order, we had no choice but to close the coastline to public access today,” Hunter S. Conrad, St. Johns County Administrator, said in a statement. “We will continue to be methodical in our approach to closings related to Covid-19, and like every decision we have made to this point, we will open the beaches at the appropriate time when it is safe to do so.”
Other areas in Florida, like New Smyrna Beach, remained open on Sunday and showed beachgoers ignoring regulations.
“Volusia County Government continues to encourage people to stay at home and consider self-isolating. Volusia County Beaches Safety Division will continue to monitor beachgoers to ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines,” City of New Smyrna Beach wrote in a Facebook post Sunday.
The Independent contacted the City for a comment on if it was considering closing down its beaches.
Governor DeSantis previously said he has no intentions to issue a stay-at-home order for the entire state of Florida or mandate for all beaches to close. Instead, officials in hotspot locations like the Miami area have ordered those residents to stay home.
The governor has also put the spread of Covid-19 on people coming from New York and the states around it. He placed a 14-day self-quarantine order on anyone travelling from New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
Florida cases rose on Sunday to 4,950 people infected from the virus and 60 deaths.