Locals had been told they must honour social distancing guidelines and visit the beach for 'essential activities only', with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry telling them: "This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life. Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbours."
We remain under a State and local safer at home order. Limited access to beaches/ parks is for recreational activities only. No chairs, coolers, sitting/groups congregating. Public safety workers will break up groups. Use these spaces responsibly. Don't ruin this for everyone https://t.co/eiZZpGVhNP
- Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) April 17, 2020
According to news4jax.com, crowds cheered when barriers to beach access came down at 5pm yesterday at Atlantic, Jacksonville and Neptune beaches, as visitors spilled onto the sand.
A plane was spotted flying overhead with a message to beachgoers that read: "Do your part. Stay 6 feet apart. Help keep beaches open."
Photos and video footage of Jacksonville Beach, one apparently from just 26 minutes after opening, show large crowds of people enjoying some fresh air - which has prompted some locals to slam the move as 'idiotic'.
Jacksonville Beach reopened 26 minutes ago. This is a live picture. pic.twitter.com/tC6voQ3BAn- Travis Akers (@travisakers) April 17, 2020
One Twitter user wrote sarcastically: "Great job @GovRonDeSantis and @lennycurry. Nothing like taking your parachute off 1,000 feet before landing."
Someone else commented: "The stupidity is strong in Florida."
A third added: "My heart dropped. This affects more than just Florida. I can't joke about it. It's not meme time. This constant refusal to accept reality. The constant need to make everything a conspiracy. Even in the face of death... God help us."
CBS reports that the following activities are permitted at beached in Jacksonville under the guidelines: walking and running; biking; fishing; dog walking (which is allowed during all hours the beaches are open); swimming; surfing; and participating in recreational activities consistent with social guidelines.
Prohibited under the guidelines, meanwhile, are: sunbathing; towels and blankets; chairs; coolers; grills; loitering on the beach without moving; and congregating in groups larger than 10 people.
Beaches in the area, which had been closed since 20 March, will be open from 6am to 11am every morning and from 5pm to 8pm in the evening, but will be closed all other times.
The decision to reopen comes after US President Donald Trump unveiled guidance for a phased reopening of the country's economy, in which he ultimately left the final decisions to governors.
According to The Washington Post, Trump told governors via phone call that they would 'call their own shots'.
Speaking during a press conference he said: "As I have said for some time now, a national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution.
"To preserve the health of our citizens, we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy."