Despite nationwide calls for social distancing, crowds continued to swarm the remaining open beaches in Florida, sparking concerns of community spread of COVID-19 in the state and beyond as spring break tourists continue to mingle amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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Videos and photos of the crowds at Clearwater Beach on Monday caused the destination to trend on Twitter, and footage of other open Florida beaches began to circulate on social media.
WFLA-TV shared a video stating that Clearwater Beach was "packed," while a reporter from WFTS-TV posted pictures from the same beach with the message, "BUSY BEACH! This is what @MyClearwater Beach looks like right now as spring break crowds flock to the sand. #Clearwater leaders haven't decided if they should add a curfew or close beaches but they may vote on measures related to the #coronavirus this Thursday."
A video reportedly taken from over the weekend also showed an even denser crowd at Fort Lauderdale Beach, where officials have since imposed a ban on gatherings of 250 people or more and required bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. and keep occupancy at 50% or lower, the Associated Press reported.
WTSP-TV reported Saturday that beaches became the go-to spot for people due to the cancellation or postponement of "nearly every major event" at popular spring break destinations.
One tourist visiting Clearwater from Ohio told the outlet, "I'm shocked the beaches aren't shut down. I mean we need something to do, other than sit inside, but I'm shocked the beaches aren't shut down."
Not all beaches remain open in Florida. Several have closed including Hollywood and Miami Beach's public beaches in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the state, where there are now more than 150 confirmed cases of the virus.
While some beaches are closed, Florida has opted to keep all of its polling booths open.
Gov. Rick DeSantis (R) announced Monday that the state's planned presidential primary election will move forward as planned on Tuesday, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The outlet noted that the states of "Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana all have pushed back their primaries because of the coronavirus."
"We are dealing with this in a thoughtful way, but we are not going to panic," DeSantis said during his announcement. "These things can be done in ways where there are not large crowds."