Florida Beaches, 3 Months Post Lockdown
We’re almost to the three-month mark since the lockdown started here in Pinellas. Pretty quickly all of the public beaches were closed, right in the midst of Spring Break season. For a county with so many of its economic drivers tied to tourism and beachgoers, that specific element of the lockdown was unprecedented, but given the unknown around the virus’s possible impacts, it was the right decision.
Earlier in May the county reopened the beaches, and naturally, the first weekend was mayhem. We’ve gone a few times throughout the month, and it’s certainly been busy, but not a ton busier than it’d be during any other May.
We’ve been to Pass-a-Grille, St Pete Beach, and Sunset Beach, each of them is moderately busy during normal time, but the biggest issue right now has been the artificial limiting of crowds by law enforcement, mostly by limiting permitted parking. The beaches themselves are crowded in pockets, but still far safer and more distanced than some parks and trails I’ve been to. There are officers keeping an eye on things at the beach walkways and helicopters patrolling up and down looking for anything overwhelmingly crowded. I’m glad they’ve been able to manage it without it getting out of hand. My anectodal feedback on the national news coverage of “OMG they’re reopening beaches” is that they’re overblowing it. It’s not near as bad as most of the b-roll beach footage would have you believe.
Overall it seems like the county’s done a good job in a tenuous situation. And for the most part residents have been respectful in mask-wearing and distance-keeping — a lot more than I would’ve predicted. Floridians aren’t well known for compliance and good behavior.
It’s looking like we’re completely lifting restrictions on beaches, playgrounds, and pools next week, as well. Hopefully with appropriate distancing behavior we can gradually get comfortable again with at least outdoor activities, while keeping an eye on the case count figures to be cautious.