Despite shutdowns and closures around the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the gate to Okaloosa and Walton County beaches is open and spring breakers are here by the droves, but taking precautions of sorts.



“I’m not really avoiding anything, just washing hands more often,” said Truman Mason of Lakota West High School of Cincinnati Ohio here on spring break. He and his buddies, along with adult supervision, are staying at the Majestic Sun in Miramar Beach for the week.


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“I’ve got enough Emergen-C for everyday of the trip and I’m washing my hands,” said Daved Jones.


Jones and Mason were just two of four guys from Ohio who were out playing Spike Ball on the beach Monday morning, as other lounged around in beach chairs.


Lisa Zenner, who is a teacher at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, was soaking up the sun and salt air Monday and loving it.


“I really thought it was going to be more crowded,” Zenner said.


A little before noon, there were still empty chairs and umbrellas, but folks continued to trickle in, loaded down with water toys, coolers and more.


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Zenner said they had originally planned to take their spring break with their kids in Tampa for baseball spring training. But with the cancellation of the MLB spring training last week, they switched gears and came to the Emerald Coast.


“We just booked yesterday,” Zenner said at the Majestic Sun.


“But I’ll take this any day,” she said, as she relaxed under her umbrella.


As for concerns about the coronavirus, she said they are washing their hands, which they do anyhow.


“I’m a teacher so I can’t be afraid of germs,” she said. “But the saltwater and salt air is the best thing for your body. This is the best place you could be.”


A group of about a dozen female students from Clemson University in South Carolina were taking in the sun on the beaches of South Walton near Pompano Joe’s Restaurant around noon Monday.


“We’re hearing so many rumors we don’t know what to do or believe,” said Holly Buxton. But either way, Buxton is prepared with three big containers of hand sanitizer, she said.


As for other precautions the Clemson girls are taking, they said they didn’t share drinks Sunday night.


The girls from Clemson have rented a house in Miramar Beach and plan to stay until Thursday, although their school is closed until April 5 due to the COVID-19.


For now the girls said they feel safe here.


“It’ safer here than being at school,” said Ellis Turner, noting the group lives in a on-campus resident hall where everybody is touching everything.


One of the beach ambassadors stationed at the entrance to the beach near Pompano Joe’s said the most asked question the last few days has been, “Are the beaches closing due to the coronavirus?”


The answer, for now, is no.


However, the ambassador, whose job is to provide information to the beachgoers, said the maintenance crew is coming in and cleaning the restrooms and shower area three and four times a day.


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