Hordes of young people defied orders to practice social distancing as coronavirus concerns steadily increase, congregating on South Florida beaches Tuesday despite official calls to limit social events to groups of ten.
The phenomenon speaks to the growing generational tension between younger Americans — who, as President Trump said, may feel “invincible” in this time of crisis — and older Americans who remain at a higher risk.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday the mass closure of bars and nightclubs as the coronavirus pandemic festers in the United States and in the state of Florida. He did not provide a stringent order for beaches in the Sunshine State but said the statewide position is in accordance with the CDC guidance of “no group on a beach more than ten.”
“You have to have distance apart if you’re going to be out there,” DeSantis said during Tuesday’s press conference. “So that will apply statewide.”
The governor noted that local officials could take more aggressive action depending on the situations in their respective communities. Officials in the Miami area, for example, have taken more aggressive action, with Miami Beach imposing a curfew on popular blocks of South Beach and shutting down public beaches “from Fifth through 15th streets — including Lummus Park” in South Beach.
According to the Miami Herald:
In Miami Beach, the emergency measures will run through at least March 19, but City Manager Jimmy Morales — who invoked his emergency powers on Thursday through a declaration of state of emergency — will ask the City Commission to extend them.
The directives expand the scope of an emergency measure Morales ordered Saturday to close three blocks of beach in South Beach early beginning at 4:30 p.m. On Friday, Morales issued his first emergency order requiring the city’s most popular restaurants and clubs to limit their capacity to under 250 people. Fort Lauderdale has also prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people.
“The status quo with crowds of spring breakers is absolutely unacceptable,” Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian said in a statement. “Every health expert is telling us we need social distancing — less interaction to reduce transmissions.”
“While I empathize with our businesses and their employees, I fully support the City Manager’s additional emergency measures to enhance public safety,” he added.
Despite best efforts from officials, younger people have continued to flock to South Florida beaches, seemingly ignoring the calls to practice social distancing. That practice, officials say, could curb the impact of the virus on vulnerable Americans — older generations and those with underlying health issues. Nevertheless, photos show dozens, if not hundreds, of spring breakers on Miami’s South Beach reveling in their youth on St. Patrick’s Day, twerking, wrestling, and partying despite the Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber previously deeming spring break effectively “over.”
“We can’t have the kinds of crowds we’ve had, the kinds of gatherings,” Gelber said during a news conference on Sunday.
“I walked down Ocean Drive yesterday, and what I saw was incredibly disturbing. It wasn’t just the typical large gatherings of people, but it was young people who believe they’re invincible and probably don’t really think of this in any way as a health crisis,” he added.
Local 10 reported a similar phenomenon last week, noting that crowds on Hollywood Beach “were out in full force despite coronavirus concerns.”
The refusal to heed to the warnings of public health officials is furthering the generational divide across the board. None summed up the harsh reality better than actress Vanessa Hudgens, who came under fire after telling her 38 million Instagram followers that extreme social distancing measures are “bullshit” because “like, yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible, but like, inevitable?”
She has since apologized for her “insensitive” words.
Nonetheless, President Trump said on Wednesday that younger generations need to “heed the advice” of officials.
“We don’t want them gathering, and I see they do gather — including on beaches and including in restaurants — young people. They don’t realize — they’re feeling invincible,” Trump said during a Wednesday press conference.
“They were feeling totally invincible or are feeling that way but they don’t realize they can be carrying lots of bad things home to grandmother and grandfather and even their parents,” he continued.
“So we want them to heed the advice. We made the advice, and I think it’s getting through. I do believe it’s getting through,” he added.