Joe Henderson: Pinellas gambles that people will behave as beaches reopen

florida beaches
As Florida prepares to reopen from COVID-19, how long will it take for a day at the beach to be the same as it always was?

We all hope people will behave appropriately when they return to the beaches in Pinellas County, but we also know some of them won’t. Of the gamble Pinellas County Commissioners took Tuesday to reopen the beaches, that’s the safest bet of all.

Of course, the majority of people will maintain social distancing on the pristine sands of our treasured Gulf beaches. Those folks don’t concern us. But some believe in their bones that all of this COVID-19 stuff is overblown media hype, and they won’t care if they invade your space.

They won’t care if you get sick because life is all about them.

I guess we can’t stay in a cocoon forever, though, worrying that some drunk or punk will cough in our direction. That seems to be the logic behind the 6-1 decision by the County Commission to open the beaches at 7 a.m. Monday.

Private pools at places like condos and apartment complexes can open at 6 a.m. Thursday.

However, the timing seems odd. Florida just reported its highest one-day number of deaths with 83, bringing the grim total to 1,088.

Interestingly, 56% of Pinellas residents opposed reopening the beaches, according to St. Pete Polls. Only 37% were in favor. That would indicate that crowds won’t flock to the beaches, at least not right away.

I totally get that. If the pollster had called me, I would have been with the majority. Waiting a little longer won’t kill us, but impatience might.

But the deed is done, so the risk, at this point, is up to the individual. Do you feel lucky?

There won’t be a lot of restrictions in place, unlike at some other sites that banned beach chairs and coolers. That loosened stance may scare off some more people because most of us are a little skittish now.

That said, we’re also tired and maybe victims of too much togetherness in this stay-at-home time.

A day at the beach sounds nice right now. Maybe we could all use one. I’m going to wait a little while longer, though. The beach will still be there, and in a few more weeks, we should have a better feel for things.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Washington Tuesday to meet with President Donald Trump. DeSantis will unveil his plan Wednesday to reopen Florida.

The plan likely will be gradual and rolling. DeSantis said that strict nursing home rules would remain, but restaurants and other service-oriented businesses could see restrictions slowly relaxed.

DeSantis has promised that no mass-gathering events will take place in Florida through the end of May. Compared to some states (looking at you, Georgia), that approach is measured and cautious.

Then again, opening the beaches invites mass gatherings.

If you go, you’ll have to trust people will be careful. Just the same, though, you’ll watch from the corner of your eye at anyone nearby. Are they coming my way? Why isn’t that guy wearing a mask?

Six feet, dude!

OMG, did he just cough?

That’s what we’ve got now. In Pinellas County, a day at the beach for the foreseeable future won’t be, well, a day at the beach.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Ron

    April 28, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Don’t we gamble every day we leave our homes that someone won’t put her right to speed over our right to be safe, or that someone won’t put his right to a roof over his head over someone else’s right to the sanctuary of their home, or someone else won’t put her right to “speak the truth to power” above the right of another to hear the facts instead of mere opinions?
    Yeah, we do. Funny how often that gamble doesn’t work out. There is a solution: I’ll be a hermit, and when they finally come for me in a couple years, with my dozen ill-fed cats and my six inch toenails, I will at least be able to say Joe Henderson saved me from coronavirus.

  • Mark

    April 28, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    Joe Henderson is a great example why the media is the enemy and his industry is dying. The Tribune is on its last breath of survival and guys like Joe need to just go away. Life has risks. Are we going to ban cars next? Get a grasp on reality and realize more and more evidence is showing the lockdown was wrong and didn’t save nearly as many lives as it will ruin. Go away Joe.

  • Jon Jones

    April 29, 2020 at 9:13 am

    The overriding decision to lock down our society was to not overload the healthcare system. Our hospitals are vacant Joe!!! Flu season is over. Open up gradually which this is part of and we will be fine. Joe you and to many former journalists are just haters. I feel sorry for you and your industry which lives on fear and hate. Living in the Bay Area you have a 99.999 % chance of not getting the virus. 1 out of about 1,500 is your odds. 150 total hospitalizations in Tampa for a county with 1.43 million people!!! I’ll take my chance at the beach a restaurant and a store. I’ll stay 6 feet away but let people work, live and play.

  • Ron Helton

    April 29, 2020 at 9:39 am

    The silver lining is that it’ll just be Trump supporters getting infected. Win-win situation.

    • Melvin Mitchell

      April 29, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      Just another simple minded, hate filled, liberal unamerican fool.

      • Ron Helton

        April 29, 2020 at 2:38 pm

        need a safe space, snowflake?? didn’t mean to make you CRY!

  • Melvin Mitchell

    April 29, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Joe, instead of just writing garbage why don’t you go and run the numbers for the annual flu. Then report on those the same way that everyone has been reporting on coronavirus. You would absolutely lose your mind…

  • Nancy

    April 30, 2020 at 1:36 am

    I’m in the medical research field and you will soon be hit with a second wave of this devastating virus. And then run into flu season. We’ll see who is crying then.

Comments are closed.


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