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Sarasota County To Open Beaches With Some Restrictions

A green lifeguard stand on Siesta Beach, with a few people milling about.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Governor Ron DeSantis gave local municipalities authority last Friday to reopen their beaches and parks for certain recreational activities.

Sarasota County Commissioners have voted to reopen beaches.

But there will be restrictions.

Beginning Monday, people will be able to walk, swim and fish at Sarasota County beaches. These are deemed as "essential activities" outlined by Governor Ron DeSantis' stay-at-home order.

But you won't be able to sunbathe or buy a soda at a concession stand, and beach parking lots will remain closed for now.

“Unless you’ve been living in a cave you know the seriousness of this virus and most importantly, you know what to do to protect yourself,” said Sarasota County Commission Chair Michael Moran. “With that said, now that everybody is educated on this, I think it’s time to open up our lives and be personally accountable." 

Meanwhile, Sarasota City officials say Lido Beach will remain closed.

“Local city decisions will be guided by science, data and credible public health advice. Lessening restrictions too early, especially with limited local testing, could backfire,” said City Manager Tom Barwin. "The number of positive cases located within five zip codes in the city limits continues to rise." 

County Commissioner Christian Ziegler added the beach proposal to the agendaof Wednesday's regular board meeting. He called the decision a "good first step."

"I think it’s great for people to be able to go out and get fresh air,” he said. “I get it-- the coronavirus--this is a horrible time, this is a bad crisis but there are some positives that come out of this. I think people are spending a lot of time with their family. This gives them another activity that they can do while they are restricted from possibly going to work."

Commissioner Nancy Detert characterized the partial beach openings as a matter of mental health.

"People are getting so cooped up that they not only have cabin fever but they're almost getting used to being isolated,” she said. “People that have anxiety and other issues--this is terribly unhealthy for them."

Governor Ron DeSantis gave local municipalities authority last Friday to reopentheir beaches and parks for certain recreational activities. The announcement came just over two weeks after he ordered a statewide lockdown and closed beaches to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

As of Wednesday morning, the Florida Department of Health reported that 299 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Sarasota County. Thirty-one people have died.

On Tuesday, neighboring Charlotte County announced it would reopen its beaches next Monday, without restrictions.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.