Surging numbers of new coronavirus cases in Florida had many wary of flocking to beaches Saturday, with many staying home and most spreading out from one another.
A typical weekend in late June would see street parking filled up and throngs of people at the end of Minuteman Causeway in Cocoa Beach. On Saturday, however, nearly all of the few hundred people at the popular beach spot were camped out in small groups with plenty of distance between.
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A typical sight along Brevard County beaches from Cape Canaveral to the Melbourne Beach area Saturday was parking lots crowded with cars while people on the beaches themselves maintained physical distance between one another.
Cocoa Beach Mayor Ben Malik said he had concerns about crowds flocking to the beach but also believes that fresh air and sunshine is much needed as long as people take precautions.
“My personal opinion is the beach is such a wide spot that people can stay distanced,” Malik said.
Although state and local restrictions on beaches and businesses might stop some spread, people must ultimately be responsible for themselves, Malik added.
“At the end of the day it’s impossible for the government to regulate common sense or we’ll be accused of some 5G conspiracy nonsense.”
Malik counted himself as somewhat of a coronavirus skeptic until a friend in his 50s recently passed away after developing COVID-19. He hopes people who come from other areas to Cocoa Beach will do the right thing and wear masks and stay distanced.
Saturday brought with it near-record heat and new record numbers of coronavirus cases in Brevard County, located on the east coast of central Florida. The newest batch of 250 cases shattered the previous day’s then-record 148 new cases. Florida as a whole continued to climb with 9,585 coronavirus cases added Saturday.
In a recent reversal, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut recently imposed restrictions on travelers from Florida and other states where the transmission rate is currently high. The number of new cases in the Northeast has been dropping while Florida’s rise.
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Not all interstate travel was restricted or stopped and not everyone was as concerned or scared of crossing state lines.
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Marty Davis was with a small group of friends visiting Cocoa Beach from Philadelphia, an area that has seen its case numbers go down in recent weeks.
“We’re from Philly. I feel like as long as you do your due diligence, you’re fine. Wash your hands, wear your mask, wipe down your stuff. I see the people who live down here don’t even wear them,” he said of the masks.
They chose the beach because they can maintain distance and aren’t enclosed with other people indoors breathing recycled air from an air conditioner.
“The way we look at it, with how it’s dropping in Philly and we’re following procedure” we feel safe, Davis said.
“It’s a Philly thing,” he said to explain his fearlessness over the coronavirus.
Beachgoers enjoy the sun and sand eat Shepard Park in Cocoa Beach Saturday afternoon, June 27, 2020. Mandatory Credit: Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK
Brevard residents James and Courtnie Smith figured a quick swim in the ocean would be a good way to cool off in the 90-degree weather. They had just come from the Cocoa Beach skatepark down the road.
The couple stood in the shade of a lifeguard station away from any other groups of people, saying that aren’t too concerned as they’ve been staying to themselves as much as possible when out and doing what they can to stay safe.
“As long as everyone stays safe and keeps their distance,” Courtnie said, there’s not much more people can do.
“We’ve been dealing it with quite some time now so we’re starting to loosen up a bit but still wearing masks, of course,” James added.
Although Brevard County has no current plans to limit access to beaches, other areas of Florida do. In Miami, which already saw large surges of coronavirus, officials plan to close beaches during the weekend of July 4.
Beachgoers enjoy the sun and sand in Cocoa Beach Saturday afternoon, June 27, 2020. Mandatory Credit: Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK
Although many at the beach Saturday were maintaining distance and not crowding, Mayor Malik said there are still pockets of people who are ignoring Centers for Disease Control recommendations when it comes to coronavirus.
“We need people to do the right thing and it’s so incredibly frustrating,” he said. “A walk on the beach, a jog, a surf, a swim. All of those things are good for you. It’s not necessarily a death sentence.”
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But for those still partying on the beach with social distancing, he had a question.
“Do you want to be in that percentage that doesn’t make it or gives it to a family member? I don’t.”
Contact Vazquez at firstname.lastname@example.org, 321-917-7491 or on Twitter @tyler_vazquez. Support his work by subscribing to FloridaToday.com.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Fewer people flocking to Florida beaches as COVID-19 cases surge