Mayor Lenny Curry said in an April 16 statement that parks and beaches throughout Duval County would reopen but only for essential activities and in line with social distancing guidelines.
The announcement defined essential activities as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets, and surfing.
“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Curry said. “Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbors.”
Beaches will be subject to limited hours of operation, Curry said. Specifically, they will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and will otherwise remain shut.
Golf courses run by the city will reopen during normal operating hours, but golfers must follow social distancing requirements.
While Jacksonville city parks will be opened, some facilities like toilets, pavilions, and picnic areas will stay closed. There will also remain restrictions in place about what activities will be permitted in parks, including no overnight camping and no organized group activities like picnics or team sports.
The guidelines include a reminder that the executive order limiting public gatherings to 50 people or fewer remains in force. Jacksonville beaches have been closed since March 20.
“Its been difficult around here,” said local resident Sophia Lamb, in remarks to local news outlet News4JAX. “I think a lot of us are resorting to skating and biking, riding our scooters, but the beach is definitely a stress reliever.”
Reopening the economy has become a key issue as people nationwide feel the impact of lockdowns.
President Trump on Thursday unveiled three-phase guidelines for a gradual reopening of the economy but left the final decision to state governors.
“Our team of experts agree we can start the next front in our war, which we are calling ‘Opening Up America Again.’ And that is what we are doing, opening up our country,” he said. “We have to do that.”
Trump cited encouraging data around reopening.
“Our experts say the curve has flattened and the peak in new cases is behind us,” the president said. “Nationwide, more than 850 counties—or nearly 30 percent—have reported no new case in the last seven days.”
Earlier, Trump said reopening would be staggered and take into account various states’ different situations regarding the outbreak.
“You already know we’ll be opening up states—some states much sooner than others. And we think some of the states can actually open up before the deadline of May 1. And I think that that will be a very exciting time indeed,” Trump said.
Lifting restrictions put in place to contain the virus has been the subject of fierce debate both inside and outside the Trump administration, with tension between the need to save lives and the need for people to make a living.