JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – The news that Duval County had reopened its beaches on the same day that Florida reported 58 deaths from the novel coronavirus — the highest daily death toll since the pandemic began — was reported by national media outlets over the weekend like The Washington Post, CBS News, The New York Times, CNN, Fox News and USA Today.
The images of thousands of people on Jacksonville Beach on Friday evening spread across the internet and even spawned an insulting hashtag on Twitter that was still trending on Sunday: #FloridaMoron.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was defensive about the national coverage in a series of tweets on Saturday.
“We need methodical steps to open our cities,” Curry tweeted. “Shutting down cities indefinitely is not an option. National media has responsibility here. I’m gonna lead a step by step way forward. Governors and mayors will do the same. National media please think responsibly before u publish.”
“Citizens make decisions based on what is reported by media,” he wrote in another tweet. “This worldwide pandemic has given certain cable news outlets and international media an issue to drive ratings. Local journalists/media will share the facts. Tune into and read local news.”
“While there was a large crowd when the beaches reopened, people are following guidelines,” Nikki Kimbleton, Curry’s spokeswoman, told the Washington Post. “There’s been a vast difference in crowd size since that initial 5 p.m. Friday opening.”
We need methodical steps to open our cities. Shutting down cities indefinitely is not an option.National media has responsibility here. I’m gonna lead a step by step way forward. Governors and mayors will do the same. National media please think responsibly before u publish. https://t.co/toVzOH3CPv— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) April 19, 2020
Local news has been objective in coverage of COVID19 from beginning to where we are now. And they have been strong in the face of national and international news running sensational headlines with no understanding of our city. Thank you local journalists. Long road ahead.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) April 19, 2020
After the rush on Friday, the crowds appeared to thin out over the weekend, but News4Jax still saw crowds in various areas of the beaches on Saturday.
Video recorded at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday showed groups of people, but News4Jax didn’t see any signs of huge parties or gatherings, mostly groups under 10 people, which is allowed.
Around the same time on Sunday, there were a lot fewer people compared to Saturday morning and nowhere near the crowd size seen Friday or Saturday.
While #FloridaMorons trends, I Had the opportunity to shoot the scene at Jax beach today for @Reuters. Hundreds of people out with no real social distancing. Police cars patrolled to prevent people from staying stationary or playing “organizational sports” that create crowds. pic.twitter.com/MQehbTodWd— Samuel Thomas (@SamuelThomas___) April 19, 2020
In the times News4Jax has been at the beach over the weekend, for the most part, it looked like people were staying active and staying moving, but there have been examples of people sitting on towels and staying in one area.
News4Jax has not seen a lot of people wearing masks, and even though there aren’t any huge groups, the groups that are on the beach don’t exactly keep six feet between people.
After the beaches closed down Friday night, Curry tweeted a thank you to Jacksonville and said the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had no issues clearing the beaches.
Spoke to Sheriff Williams @jsosheriff a few minutes ago. He said all Beaches are pretty much clear and They , Deputies @JSOPIO , had no issues neither did the beaches agencies....the community responded. Good work Jacksonville.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) April 18, 2020
The beach will reopen again for physical activities only at 6 a.m. on Monday. The beaches are open from 6 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.
The White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator was asked this weekend her thoughts on the crowded Florida Beaches. Dr. Birx said she trusts county health directors and government officials know what’s best for their counties.