On April 1, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, ordered his state’s residents to remain indoors, barring “essential services and activities,” to limit the spread of the coronavirus. But DeSantis resisted calls to close the beaches. Local officials in towns and counties could make the proper calls, DeSantis insisted, especially in hotspots such as South Florida’s Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, where the state’s coronavirus cases have clustered.
DeSantis’s belated response came after tens of thousands of tourists flocked to Florida’s beaches for spring break in March; by mid-April, the state’s infection rate peaked with more than 27,000 cases, including 823 deaths, according to public health officials. DeSantis defended his decision to keep beaches open by noting that some medical experts doubted the coronavirus’s transmissibility in open-air settings, such as the beach. “They want you to social distance, of course, but they actually encourage people to get fresh air,” DeSantis said in March.
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