(MIAMI HERALD) – Duval County opened its beaches Friday evening — with certain restrictions — but it appears that the stir-crazy crowds weren’t following the social distancing rules.
And now, a #FloridaMorons hashtag started trending on Twitter Saturday afternoon as social media users posted pictures on Twitter and Facebook of shorelines full of people in the Jacksonville area, The Orlando Sentinel reported.
For what might be the first time, the names “Beavis & Butt-head” — a cartoon about two, well, teenage morons that was popular on MTV in the 1990s — turned up in a Twitter slam aimed at #FloridaMorons.
“The scene at Jacksonville Beach wasn’t one of caution in the middle of a worldwide pandemic,” reported CNN. “Crowds cheered and flooded the beach when police took the barriers down. People were seen swimming, biking, surfing, running and fishing.
“Social distancing seemed to be the last thing on anyone’s mind Friday,” CNN said.
But not everyone saw it that way.
Two hours after the beaches opened, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who wanted beaches open, retweeted Jacksonville councilman Rory Diamond’s aerial photo of an empty stretch of beach where only a few people are visible — like a handful of stray ants.
“Thank you Jacksonville. I appreciate your social distancing and responsible behavior as we opened our beaches for walking, swimming, running etc.,” Curry tweeted. “No groups congregating. … Well done Jax.”
RESIDENTS, OFFICIALS DIFFER
The image was immediately challenged by Floridians who, in a state ravaged by the coronavirus — with the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths growing by the hour — think re-opening public spaces like beaches in the middle of a pandemic is premature.
“What about the 5:20 pm shot literally everyone else saw?” asked a Jacksonville resident who posts as Guido.
Others posted drone photos from Action News JAX’s televised report that tell another story as people are seen jamming the sands and waters.
“Why is he deliberately posting Rory’s deliberately misleading photos from the deserted part of north Neptune Beach? Far from where the action is on Jax beach,” posted @stephendare, who is described as an “urban activist” on Twitter.
ST. JOHNS ALSO OPENS BEACHES
St. Johns County was the second Florida beach to open, with restrictions on usage, at 6 a.m. Saturday, News4Jax reported. The beaches there will be open daily from 6 a.m. to noon. for limited activities.
“COVID-19 is not here, bro,“ a St. Johns County surfer told News4Jax Friday night. “We’ve been out here the whole time, just having fun man.”
According to the Florida Department of Health, St. Johns County has had 186 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with four deaths reported as of Friday evening.
WHAT MIAMI-DADE IS DOING
At a press conference Saturday morning, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he saw the images out of Jacksonville, but said “we need to move forward” and reopen the beaches under “specific orders.”
Miami Beach and Crandon, for instance, have their beaches closed.
“I know you’re going to see something sooner rather than later in terms of reopening our open spaces,” he said. “That’s something that we need to do.”
Over the weekend, he said the county would organize a task force to reopen the hospitality, restaurant and retail industries.
“When we reopen our public spaces it will be done in a very safe manner,” Gimenez said. “We need to start thinking about how we’re going to open up and do it in a way that limits the spread of the virus. And put very specific regulations, very specific orders in place.”
Gimenez used his emergency powers to order all beaches and parks to close on March 19, during the height of a spring break period that cast a national spotlight on how Florida was acting — or not — to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“And those folks that want to violate the orders, those are the ones that are going to feel the weight of enforcement,” he said. “But for the most part, we’re all doing our part. We’re all good law abiding citizens. We don’t need to punish good law-abiding citizens for the actions of a few.”
Miami-Dade County had 8,966 confirmed cases Saturday morning. The county had 862 hospitalizations and 197 deaths, the state’s highest death toll.