MIAMI – Officials are announcing more beaches will be closing again in Florida to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus as they try to tamp down on large gatherings amid a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday in Pensacola that interactions among young people are driving the surge in confirmed cases. Meanwhile authorities in Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach County said they would be closing beaches during the busy Fourth of July weekend following the decision of neighboring Miami-Dade County to close theirs between July 3 and July 7.
News4Jax reached out to the Mayors of Fernandina Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, and Atlantic Beach to see if leaders there are considering a similar measure.
The Florida Department of Health reported on Sunday more than 8,500 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 29 deaths. In total, the state now has more than 141,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 3,400 deaths.
New hospitalizations are also ticking upward, although not as dramatically as the new cases. New admissions this week have been between 160 and 170 per day, according to figures compiled by covidtracking.com.
State officials on Friday announced a ban on alcohol consumption at bars, and DeSantis explained Sunday there was “widespread noncompliance" in those businesses, saying they “tossed aside” safety guidelines. Several restaurants were shut down over the weekend in Broward County for not following rules restricting capacity and mandating the use of masks.
“It has invariably been because they packed so many people in and created a type of environment that we are trying to avoid,” DeSantis said. “Caution was thrown to the wind and so we are where we are.”
DeSantis said that between late May and early June, racial justice protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis diverted attention from the pandemic, and people began to feel more comortable going out.
South Florida restaurants and businesses restarted operations with some restrictions in the middle of May after wide closures, but some municipalities delayed the reopening to later that month. Beaches in Miami-Dade County, the hardest-hit, only reopened on June 10.
“I do think you saw some of the vigilance wear down a little bit,” DeSantis said.
On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence called off campaign events in Florida and Arizona, another state that is also seeing a surge in cases. Pence was to appear at events in Lake Wales and in Sarasota County. He is still set to meet with the governor.
DeSantis said he worried that younger people who live with older relatives may infect those in groups who can get more severely ill with COVID-19. Numbers are showing that since the spike in cases began to show.
"For these younger groups they need to be thinking about who they are coming into contact with who may be in the more vulnerable groups,” DeSantis said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.