Despite public health concerns regarding the pandemic, the City of Miami Beach reopened its beaches on June 10. Since then, case numbers have increased dramatically in Florida, and many wonder if it was the right decision – or if it’s safe to go to the beach.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals not visit parks or beaches that are too crowded to maintain a 6-foot distance from others who are not a part of their household. On certain days, maintaining such a distance at the beach may be impossible.
Over the last several weeks, coronavirus cases have increased tremendously in Florida. On July 12 the state set a nationwide record for the most cases recorded in a single day and despite declining new case numbers over the past couple of days, hospitalizations hit a record high.
But the recent spike in cases is not driven only by the reopening of outdoor spaces such as beaches, said Dr. Michael Hall, a physician at the Hall Longevity Clinic in Miami Beach.
“It could be partially because of the protests and just people getting around others, like in restaurants and bars that have been opening,” Hall said. He also emphasized that the risk of contracting or spreading the virus at the beach is relatively minimal, as long as social distancing is observed. Hall is more concerned with organized social events.
“As far as people going to house parties and barbecues, we must be careful with that because it’s too confined and they’re not observing enough critical precautions,” said Hall.
In accordance with phase two of the plan to reopen Miami Beach, a host of new rules and regulations for beachgoers have been implemented. Among these rules are new operating hours (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.), a ban on groups of more than 10 people and various guidelines for wearing masks.
On June 26, Miami-Dade County announced that it would shut down beaches in the City of Miami Beach for three days over the Fourth of July weekend to discourage precisely the type of gatherings that concern Hall.
Many argue this is not nearly enough, however, and are calling for a more long-term shutdown of beaches.
”I like going to the beach to just relax by myself,” said Anthony Suarez, a frequent beachgoer. “But there are people that come with groups that are constantly walking around everywhere… It’s probably better to have everyone stay at home at this point.”
With case numbers and death counts going up daily in Florida, critics have called for slowing or reversing the reopening process. Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly insisted that there is no possibility of shutting back down.
“We’re not going back, closing things,” Gov. DeSantis said at a press conference, continuing on to say that he believes that social gatherings amongst the younger population are what’s driving the increase in cases.
Florida is currently classified as a hotspot state – meaning that it is one of the states experiencing a significant spike in cases. Other hotspot states include Texas, California and Arizona.
Individuals interested in visiting beaches and other outdoor spaces should read the CDC recommendations on visiting parks and recreational facilities.