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Jax Daily Record Friday, Mar. 20, 202004:13 PM EST

Duval County beaches ordered closed

Police and lifeguards will be patrolling enforce compliance.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

Duval County beaches will close indefinitely at 5 p.m. March 20 to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Mayor Lenny Curry said in a 3 p.m. March 20 news conference the decision was made jointly with the mayors of Duval County’s three Beaches communities. 

Curry said the mayors debated the executive order in phone calls March 19 and March 20. He acknowledged the decision likely will not be popular among residents, but it’s in the best interest of Duval County.

“I understand the concern. The weather is going to be beautiful. People are going to want to be out there soaking up the sun,” Curry said. “In the end, when people congregate on the beaches, even when they try to social distance, when the tides come in it’s virtually impossible. When that happens you can’t manage it.”

Curry said it will be considered trespassing for anyone to be on the beaches and police and lifeguards will be patrolling to enforce compliance.

In a news release after the Curry announcement, the Jacksonville Beach Police Department said due to the beach closures, most public parking east of First Street North and First Street South will be closed until further notice.

Signs will be posted at beach walkovers and access points that the beaches are closed and Curry said some points will be barricaded. 

The local directive comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order closing the beaches in Broward and Palm Beach counties until March 31.

DeSantis has resisted a blanket statewide beach closure, noting in a March 19 news conference that the impact of the new coronavirus is not spread uniformly across the state. The governor said he wanted to leave the decision up to municipalities and county governments, citing home rule.

According to data from the Florida Department of Health, as of 3:39 p.m. March 20, Duval County had 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death related to the virus.

Broward County recorded 124 cases and two deaths. Palm Beach County had 34 cases and no deaths. 

Closures ordered in those two counties also include movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, arcades, gymnasiums and fitness studios.

Curry’s mandate for Duval County beaches does not have an expiration date, while the governor’s order for Broward and Palm Beach counties may be renewed by written request of county administrators. 

While Duval beaches are closing, they will remain open in St. Johns County, according to a March 20 St. Augustine Record story. 

“There is no intent to close our beaches,” St. Johns County Administrator Hunter Conrad told the Record.

Also March 20, DeSantis issued an executive order directing all restaurants to cease on-premise food and alcohol consumption. Restaurants can operate their kitchens for delivery and takeout services.

The order will be in effect until Florida is no longer in a state of emergency.

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