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Thousands flock to Florida beaches, ignoring coronavirus concerns

Doctor on why social distancing is crucial
Doctor on why social distancing is crucial amid coronavirus pandemic 03:01

Update: Clearwater, Cocoa Beach, Lee County and other communities announced plans Wednesday to close beaches due to coronavirus. 

Thousands of people in Florida are seemingly ignoring social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus outbreak. Despite warnings from public health experts, photos and videos show beaches across the state packed with spring breakers. 

On Monday, President Trump announced new national recommendations for Americans to help prevent the continued spread of COVID-19, which has killed at least 93 people in the U.S. to date. The recommendations include avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and not eating at restaurants and bars.

Essentially, every American should be practicing social distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping 6 feet away from other people.

But on Clearwater Beach in Florida, spring breakers don't seem to be abiding by those rules. Helicopter footage and social media posts reveal thousands of people lying side by side on the beach and swimming in the ocean in groups, with no apparent concern for the pandemic.

Coronavirus outbreak doesn't deter Florida beach-goers
Visitors pack North Beach in Clearwater Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Chris O'Meara / AP

"Everything might be canceled due to #CoronavirusPandemic concerns, but oh man, the beach is packed," CBS affiliate WTSP reporter Liz Burch tweeted over the weekend.

In a news conference Tuesday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered all bars and nightclubs to close effective at 5:00 p.m. for 30 days. He also recommended that the state's 12 public universities require distance learning for all students through the end of the semester.

Additionally, the governor ordered restaurants to reduce their capacity by 50% and encouraged people to order takeout instead. However, he did not announce statewide closures of beaches.

"What we're going to be doing is, simply, for the statewide floor for beaches, is applying the CDC guidance of no group on a beach more than 10 and you have to have distance apart if you're going to be out there," DeSantis said. "Different localities are going to make decisions about what makes sense."

Some beachgoers don't seem to be taking the warnings seriously. 

"If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I'm not gonna let it stop me from partying," Brady Sluder, a spring breaker from Ohio, told Reuters. "We're just out here having a good time. Whatever happens, happens." 

According to DeSantis, there have been 192 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida, including 173 residents of the state. 

While Florida's Gulf Coast is still busy with spring breakers, Fort LauderdaleMiami Beach and several other communities announced they were closing their beaches this week. In addition, bars, nightclubs and restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms are closing to the public as of Tuesday in some cities. 

"We have to do everything possible to minimize crowds and unfortunately our beaches must be part of our plan. I want to be clear that this is not an overreaction, but a way for us to help stop further cases of COVID-19 in our community," Miami Beach city commissioner Ben Sorenson said, CBS Miami reports.

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