Duval County has begun to ease coronavirus restrictions, announcing that starting Friday, beaches and parks would reopen.
“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. “Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbors.”
The timetable is more ambitious than teased earlier Thursday when Curry said reopening of beaches and parks was being considered potentially as soon as next week.
Some conditions apply.
Users must be “participating in recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.”
Sunbathing, boozing and other elements of beach blanket bacchanalia are strictly forbidden.
As well, beaches will be open only from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. each morning and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. each evening.
Parks will have regular hours, but with particular caveats, including no overnight camping at Huguenot or Hanna, no organized activities or big groups, and an adherence to social distancing.
Bathrooms, meanwhile, will be closed.
The Mayor’s comments continue a trend of Northeast Florida leaders looking to get past the coronavirus and into recovery.
Earlier this week, commissioners in St. Johns County, directly to the south of Duval County, heard evidence that perhaps the worst of the coronavirus is over for them.
County Administrator Hunter S. Conrad said there was a “downward trend” in new cases.
“That is good news seeing those numbers begin to flatline,” Conrad said, adding that “further decisions” could be made at the “discretion” of the commission next week, presumably to reopen the county’s beaches.
St. Johns County was nine days after Duval in closing beaches last month, and one suspects that their reopening could be without the conditions imposed up north.