Decision to reopen Jacksonville beaches draws national media attention, scrutiny

The national media coverage drew a series of critical tweets from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

The national media coverage drew a series of critical tweets from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

About the Authors:

Multi-media journalist

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.