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OPINION: Florida beaches need to close through summer season

Positive COVID-19 cases have set daily records in the state during the past week. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

After closing Florida beaches and many nonessential businesses on March 20, Gov. Ron DeSantis underwent scrutiny from a portion of the community that disagreed with his decision. On May 15, the governor fully reopened Florida’s beaches.

Now, one month into the second phase of DeSantis’ plan for Florida’s recovery, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are still on the rise. June 19 marked three straight days of record high numbers for the virus in Florida, a grim reality that contradicted DeSantis’ assurance that “there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” during an April 29 news conference.

Beaches should have remained closed for the summer and begun to reopen when school started back up to limit the number of people gathering. The worst thing right now for Floridians’ health during this pandemic is tourism.

Slowly allowing people back in and monitoring cases of COVID-19 for spikes would have stopped cases from rising and given the country more information to work with concerning the virus and how it acts in heavily populated areas.

Despite warnings from health officials, Florida business owners were ready to get back to work. Dependent on tourism, many local businesses did not see the light that DeSantis described and were understandably looking for a lifeline. Many of them faced bankruptcy.

Dwayne Wiseman, manager of Aruba Beach Café in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, said he is grateful to reopen. 

“Guests are coming back,” Wiseman told CBS Miami. “We are getting calls for reservations, but it will take a while to fully recover.”

While good for business owners, this can only be detrimental to public health. Beaches are simply too big to regulate with social distancing tactics and could act as a massive breeding ground for COVID-19. 

As of Saturday, Florida’s cases are coming close to 90,000 and deaths are almost at 3,000.

For many, Memorial Day weekend felt like a financial comeback, but signs point to a growth in cases that could prove a setback.

Beaches claim to enforce strict social distancing rules that restrict groups to 10 or less and require that you stay 6 feet away from other beachgoers. Some people are adhering to them, but anyone who has visited the beach lately knows that is not always the case. 

Countries like New Zealand, with over 9,300 miles of coastline, have seen extremely positive results from strict and early measures of social distancing. 

By completely restricting access to beaches as early as March 25, New Zealand kept COVID-19 from running rampant inside its borders. Countries should recognize its success and follow its steps to contain the virus.

Both the Florida government and its constituents can act now to minimize the spread of COVID-19. You can easily refrain from going to the beach until September. You can also give DeSantis a call at (850) 717-9337 to voice your opinion on this matter.