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The wave of coronavirus cases is shutting down Florida beaches

Thousands of people have ignored new guidelines calling for social distancing and continue to flock to Florida's beaches — but now, cities have had enough. Several cities in Florida have started to close down beach access in an effort to slow down the spread of coronavirus, which has infected at least 328 Florida residents and visitors.

The Clearwater City Council voted to close down Clearwater Beach for two weeks, starting March 23 at 6 a.m. The shutdown does not include restaurants or businesses along the beach, according to a tweet by the council.

On Tuesday, helicopter footage and social media posts showed Clearwater Beach packed with people. Spring breakers were seen lying side-by-side and swimming in groups — activities that clearly violated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation of staying at least six feet away from others.

In response to the videos, Arnold Schwarzenegger took to Twitter on Wednesday to tell spring breakers they need to stay at home.

"I still see photographs and videos of people sitting in outside cafes, all over the world, and having a good time and hanging out in crowds. That is not wise because that's how you can get the virus. That's how you get it — contact with other people," he said in a video while sitting in his hot tub. "...Especially now in spring time, where all of the kids are going to the beach and celebrate and drink and all of that stuff — this is not a good idea. So stay away from the crowds, go home and then we can overcome this whole problem this whole virus in no time."

Other popular beach spots in Florida are starting to limit public use as well. Cocoa Beach announced Wednesday on the city's website that "beachside parks and beachside public parking areas" will close Friday and remain closed "until further notice in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19." 

The announcement also encouraged people to, "please practice social distancing and remain at least 6 feet from others, when possible, and limit groups to 10 or less people." 

Lee County in Southwest Florida will close county-owned beaches, beach accesses and the Fort Myers Beach Pier beginning Thursday at 6 p.m. Recreation centers, pools, dog parks, tennis courts and pickleball courts were also closed Wednesday. While the parks and nature preserves will remain open, the county website says that officials encourage social distancing.

According to Florida's Department of Health, there are 299 Florida residents confirmed to have COVID-19, and eight residents who have died from the virus. There are also 29 confirmed cases of coronavirus in non-Florida residents. The Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Orlando areas are among the most impacted by coronavirus.

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