Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties are all closing their beaches for the July 4 weekend as precautionary measures against large crowds, and as the state experiences a continuing surge in new Covid-19 cases. Brevard county government is meeting to discuss the matter today.
As of now there are no plans to close the beach in Flagler Beach, Police Chief Matt Doughney and Bob Snyder, the county’s health department chief, said today.
“As of right now the beaches will still be open, it’s our understanding the same will happen in St. Johns and Volusia,” Doughney said. Only an order from the governor or a recommendation from the Flagler Health Department may change that. The governor has refused to impose such closure orders on localities, leaving it to local governments to decide for themselves.
“I spoke to Matt about it,” Snyder said. “He said that people have been adhering to social distancing guidelines overall, that it’s not perfect, but people are cooperating, and so there are no plans to close the beaches this weekend here locally.”
Florida is experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases since Phase 2 reopening began on June 5, with half its more than 150,000 cases occurring since then. The surge has reached Flagler, with 115 new cases locally since Phase 2 began.
Snyder and Doughney had teamed up in March ahead of the decision to close the beach for several weeks during a month-long stay-at-home period in the state. They had been concerned about the beach, the canopy and boardwalk areas acting as a magnet for larger gatherings.
“To be honest, the threat for catching the virus outdoors is less than the risk indoors. We are more concerned about large gatherings indoors. That’s why we are pushing the facial coverings as a strong public health measure to protect against spreading the virus.”
The department is encouraging front staffs of restaurants to have waiters and waitresses wear facial coverings, for example. “This is why the Pledge to Prevent initiative by the TDC and the county is so important,” Snyder said, referring to the ongoing campaign by the Tourist Development Council. The pledge is a voluntary program drafting local businesses to properly use personal protective equipment, ensure routine cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch areas, encourage social distancing and enforce requirements that sick employees stay home. Participating businesses are listed on a TDC webpage.
Flagler Beach is again making free shuttle buses available from the mainland, where they’ll pick up passengers in the Babcock shopping center, and drive them over beachside to alleviate parking issues there, Doughney said. Masks are not required on board but “highly encouraged,” Doughney said. There will be no fireworks, no parade, no vendors. Palm Coast also cancelled its traditional Independence Day fireworks at Town Center.
“Basically it’s going to be a big beach weekend,” Doughney said, with assistance from the sheriff’s office to handle parking and crowd concerns, “just to make sure everybody stays safe. Lifeguards will do their best to keep people socially distanced.” The city has a social media campaign to encourage safe measures.
Likewise, the county has announced no beach-closing plans for the remaining miles of Flagler’s shoreline.