Florida begins to ease coronavirus restrictions as beaches reopen in Jacksonville

Jacksonville Beach.
(Image credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Florida is now one of the first states in the nation to begin easing coronavirus restricting, with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry (R) announcing that Duval County's beaches and parks will be the first in the state to reopen, starting Friday at 5 p.m. "This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life," Curry said Thursday.

The parks and beaches will only be open for "essential activities," which includes walking, biking, fishing, swimming, and surfing, First Coast News reports. While beaches will only be open in the mornings and evenings, parks will resume normal hours so long as gatherings are limited to fewer than 50 people. Social distancing guidelines remain in place.

On Thursday, Trump had announced his Opening Up America Again plan, which leaves the country's reopening processes largely up to governors. As Axios notes, the White House had pushed the plan in part because "Trump didn't want [governors] to call the reopening first." Axios added Friday that "you'll start seeing red states announcing reopenings very soon" and to "watch for Texas and Florida to set the standard among the red states."

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By Thursday afternoon, Florida had more than 23,300 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 668 coronavirus-related deaths. The state's governor, Ron DeSantis (R), had been criticized by health experts last month for reacting "too slowly" to the crisis. Separately, on Thursday the Miami Herald reported that the state health department had moved to block its reporters from accessing records about COVID-19 deaths in Miami-Dade County, a decision the paper called "an example of how the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis often has been unwilling or unable to provide crucial information about its coronavirus response."

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