Florida’s St. Johns County Announces Partial Reopening of Beaches

A jogger and her dog are turned away from a closed beach by a police officer, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla.'s famed South Beach. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office (SJCSO) in Florida announced on Friday the partial reopening of the county’s beaches, limiting hours and activities to those that include “physical activity and motion.”

St. Johns County followed in lockstep with its Jacksonville neighbor, reopening beaches, albeit with certain restrictions:

St. Johns County Beaches Partial Reopening

St. Johns County beaches are now open from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon seven…

Posted by St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, April 17, 2020

While beaches will be open seven days a week, the hours are limited from 6 a.m. to noon. Additionally, beach activities must include “physical activity and motion.”

“Activities now permitted on St. Johns County Beaches include walking, running, exercise, surfing, biking, fishing, swimming, surfing, and other uses that require physical activity,” SJCSO said in a statement.

Group sports, commercial activities, and activities that do not require motion, like lounging or sunbathing, are not permitted.

Per the SJCSO announcement:

In addition, items not allowed on the beach include blankets, chairs, coolers, umbrellas, tents, and any item that promotes a stationary presence. Beach visitors must continue to adhere to CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] social distancing guidelines, including limiting gatherings to no more than ten persons and distancing themselves from other parties by a minimum of six feet. All public parking lots are now open; however on-beach driving remains prohibited.

Dawn C. Allicock, M.D., MPH, director and health officer of the Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County, is warning residents not to overstep the bounds of the CDC’s guidelines.

“Walk to exercise not to socialize,” Allicock said in a statement. “As long as individuals adhere to the CDC guidelines of social distancing, getting exercise and fresh air can be beneficial for our citizens’ physical and mental health.”

Hunter S. Conrad, St. Johns County administrator, said the county has tried to veer from knee-jerk reactions, stressing that every decision “has been methodical and deliberate.”

“Our residents have shown extreme grace, measure, and personal responsibility throughout this pandemic, and our trend is beginning to flatline and has been doing so for nearly two weeks,” Conrad said.

He continued:

We also know this [is] not over and we are urging all who use the beach to follow the restrictions in place. Our hope is that this becomes a great mental health release for so many and becomes the first step of many in the coming weeks and months in our return to normal life.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced similar measures on Thursday, reopening beaches and parks with certain limitations.

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