Following a 12-week closure, beaches in the city of Miami have reopened their shores. [Credit: Maria Olloqui]
(MIAMI) — Since March, residents of Miami have kept their swimsuits stored in the depths of their closet. Eighty-four days later, sunscreen lotions have expired, seasonal tans are long gone, and sunglasses look good as new.
On June 10, that all changed as the city of Miami reopened its coasts to the public, following a three-month closure amid the coronavirus pandemic. County Mayor Carlos Giménez executed the emergency shutdown order March 19 — and planned to lift it on June 1, but curfews to quell violence associated with anti-racism protests delayed the process. The reopening of beaches along Miami-Dade’s coast is a part of the city’s “phase 2” COVID-19 plan.
Is Florida America’s next coronavirus epicenter? While cases soar, Miamians continue to hit the beach.
Giménez announced a series of mandatory rules based on CDC guidelines, including the use of facial coverings, social distancing, and a ban on groups of 10 or more. Masks are not required while in the ocean.
Despite stringent regulations and increased police presence, beachgoers are excited to resume life in South Florida.
“What is Miami without a beach?” asked Alvaro Ortega, 24, who frequents Crandon Beach in Key Biscayne.
Ortega, who was born and raised in Miami, is accustomed to weekly beach outings with his family. One of his favorite pastimes is meditating on the warm sand.
“I am used to treating beach days as a family activity,” he said, as he removed his sun hat and wiped his forehead. “Meditating on the grass in my backyard was not ideal.”
While Ortega meditated with his family along the shore, a group of joggers stood 12 feet apart. Among the rules Giménez laid out, no organized sports — even between two people — may take place.
Jack Stein, 17, had not run by the beach with his friends in nearly four months. Fixing his untied shoelaces with a mask in hand, Stein was stopped by an officer upon arriving at Crandon Beach.
“He said my friends and I could only be within 12 feet of each other since we were jogging,” said Stein. “At least we’re allowed to lower our masks; walkers aren’t.”
The rules have applied across all beaches in Miami-Dade County — and businesses on the beach must also follow these guidelines.
Hobie Beach, known as Miami’s windsurfer paradise, is home to several family-owned, small businesses.
Edgar, who did not disclose his last name, has worked at Hobie Beach’s infamous hot dog stand for over eight years.
“This is the first arepa I cook since March!” he said in Spanish.
When COVID-19 swept the shores of Miami, all businesses on the beach were called off temporarily. On March 10, Edgar was told not to return.
“Transitioning to a new lifestyle at Hobie will be tough,” added Edgar. “But I’m happy to be back and working my full nine hours.”
Edgar serves his signature frozen lemonade and jumbo hot dog to beachgoers from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Beaches in Miami-Dade County open at 7 a.m. and close to the public at 8 p.m. The City of Miami Beach varies, with some beaches closing as early as 5 p.m. Other areas, such as Sunny Isles, Bill Baggs Cape, and South Beach, are managed by county authorities and have their own hours.
As beachgoers hurried to hit the water on Wednesday — the first day of reopening — news helicopters spotted four sharks off Miami Beach’s shoreline. There were no reports of sharks bothering the eager beachgoers.
Besides the sharks, Miami residents witnessed a spike in COVID-19 cases June 10.
The data is concerning …. We’re not going backwards as of yet, but we’re kind of sounding the alarm – Miami Mayor Francis Suarez
The state of Florida reached a record high of 3,822 daily cases on Friday, bringing the total number of cases in the state to more than 89,000. COVID-19-related deaths have been trending upwards since beaches reopened — and of 55 new deaths reported Tuesday, 21 were in Miami-Dade County. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber announced in a Monday news conference that Miami will not be moving into the next phase of reopening due to concern over rising cases.
“The data is concerning,” said Suarez. “We’re not going backwards as of yet, but we’re kind of sounding the alarm.”
As cases surge, some beachgoers have put their plans on hold. Others are abiding by the strict protocols.
“The Sunshine State’s uptick in the number of cases is concerning, so it’s important to be cautious,” said Ortega. “Miami residents, please remember to follow beach rules!”