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DESTIN — The Destin City Council unanimously approved opening all beaches within the city limits from dawn to dusk beginning Friday.
This does not include James Lee Park or Henderson Beach State Park.
Council members approved the re-openings during Wednesday night’s meeting.
Beaches in the city, as well as the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier and the Gulf-front beaches within Okaloosa County’s jurisdiction, have been closed since late March as a way to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
When beaches in Destin reopen, Councilman Rodney Braden urged all beachgoers to practice social distancing, with no more than 10 people in a group and individuals staying at least six feet apart from one another.
The County Commission recently agreed to reopen the pier and beaches in the county’s jurisdiction on a limited basis. The pier and those beaches will be open, starting Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
County staff is working on a plan to fully reopen the pier and all beaches in the county’s jurisdiction from sunrise to sunset starting Saturday, May 9. The commission plans to consider that plan on Tuesday.
Like at the beaches in Destin, all beach activities, including commercial ones such as weddings and beach chair/umbrella rentals, will be allowed at the county beaches whenever they are open.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, before the board voted to reopen the beaches in Destin, local resident Bill Reddington said opening the beaches from sunrise to sunset instead of for limited hours will allow “the masses” of beachgoers to be more safely spread out.
He said if the beaches weren’t reopened, the council should close local big box stores that have been crammed with people. But the opening and closing of businesses is up to the governor.
Later in the meeting, Councilman Cyron Marler talked about the importance of opening the beaches to help the local economy.
“Our economy is based on tourism,” Marler said. “I wish it wasn’t, but it is. When do we stop fearing, and when do we start saying ‘enough is enough’” with pandemic-caused restrictions.
Karen Chapman, director of the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County, told the council that social distancing remains a “vital weapon” to reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
She urged people to keep wearing face masks when social distancing is not completely possible.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a “Phase 1” of reopening the state during a press conference on Wednesday. Below is a Q&A offered by the Governor’s office about the recent order.
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Governor Ron DeSantis orders:
When did the Governor's Executive Order take effect? How long does it last?
The Governor's Executive Order takes effect Monday, May 4 at 12:01 a.m. and lasts until the governor issues a subsequent order.
Does this order apply to all Florida counties?
This order is in effect statewide, however in coordination with Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach county mayors, these three counties will follow stricter protocol without the re-open provisions of Executive Order 20-112.
Is the Governor's Executive Order consistent with the President's Opening Up America Again Plan?
Gov. DeSantis met with President Trump on Tuesday to discuss this plan and the president was very supportive of Florida's efforts to take a safe, smart, step-by-step approach to re-open Florida. See President Trump's guidance here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/.
Does this executive order supersede local law?
The Governor's Executive Order 20-91, limiting the movements of persons has been incorporated and modified in the new Executive Order 20-112 to include businesses currently open and certain businesses re-opening at 25 % building occupancy. The Governor's Executive Orders do not contain a preemption on local rules where those rules restrict or close businesses or buildings.