CLEARWATER, Fla. - On a normal Saturday, Clearwater Beach would be crowded with people enjoying the beautiful weather. However, this Saturday it was completely empty.
“We were down here this past year, beaches were crowded and there were quite a few people here compared to this year,” said Kristen Krollefson, a vacationer from Wisconsin.
With beach chairs packed up and umbrellas put away, the closed signs staggered on the sidewalk painted a clear picture.
Public Pinellas County beaches will remain closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19. “It’s a very eerie feeling and it’s very sad,” said Chris Davis, who has lived in Clearwater for 40 years.
Earlier in the week, the county ordered all Pinellas County beaches to close promptly at 11:59 p.m. on Friday night. This order overrode a previous decision by the city of Clearwater to shut down the beach this coming Monday. Some visitors, however, did not get the memo.
“We woke up at 4:30 in the morning thinking we were going to get here, get a spot, and come to find out there’s a cop right near the parking lot where we were going to go, and they told us that the beach was closed,” said Caprice Burrell from Davenport.
Others tried to test their luck by venturing out on the beach. Clearwater police quickly showed up to kick them off.
However, some locals said the empty beach is just a reminder of the vacant stores and restaurants just down the street. “Your restaurants along the beaches, the bars had to close and so it’s just so empty,” Davis explained.
Some can’t help but wonder what the closures could mean for the Clearwater area. “It’s very depressing all these people who are out of work right now,” added Davis.
But both locals and visitors are appreciating the white sandy beaches, just from a distance. “I’m just going to look, take a couple of pictures, relax and try to come back when this is all over, and I pray this thing is over in another week or two,” said Burrell.
As of right now, the county says they plan to reopen the beaches on April 6. The sheriff told FOX 13 private beach areas owned by resorts or residents will remain open.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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