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Beach Closures Leave Some South Florida Locals and Visitors Frustrated, And Others Happy

Daniel Rivero
Miami Beach resident Vonshay Crenshaw planned to have a picnic in the grass until he said police asked him to take down his tent.

On Friday morning, Vonshay Crenshaw sat on a cooler under the shade of a coconut palm. He knew the beaches were closed, but hoped to have a picnic with friends on the grass in front of the beach until those hopes were dashed.

“We just thought that we could come out here and find a space that was a little distance away from other people and just relax and be outside. But apparently not. They came with four wheelers and stuff with the police and told us to take our tent down," said Crenshaw. “It’s actually super disappointing. I don’t think any of it is necessary at all."

A few minutes later, Crenshaw wheeled away his cooler and tent and headed back to his apartment near Flamingo Park.

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Beach closures across South Florida for Fourth of July weekend have gotten mixed reactions from locals and visitors. The temporary closures happened in response to a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases across South Florida, and worries that packed beaches could foster even more spread.

Anthony Joseph drove down from Virginia and just got in Thursday night. He had been planning the vacation for months, and was a bit let down.

“I spent 300 dollars a night for me not to enjoy the beach,” he said. “Luckily I got a nice pool at the hotel. I mean it sucks, but the weather is nice.”

Hardly a cloud was in the sky as locals exercised on the path running parallel to the water. Friday was also the last day of a pedestrian-only Ocean Drive, and locals rode bikes and jogged in the street. For what is normally a busy week, things were decidedly calm.

“It’s nice, I think the locals appreciate the quietness of a Fourth of July weekend,” said Nashlly Sokoli, a Brickell resident who just finished with a jog. “Usually it’s kind of crazy down here. So it sucks that the beaches are closed, but I think safety comes first.”

A few blocks away from the water, the scene centered around the reason the beaches are closed.

Credit Daniel Rivero / WLRN
A mobile testing site for the coronavirus was parked outside the Miami Beach Police Department headquarters on Friday, July 3, 2020. Locals waited two hours to get tests.

The state’s mobile testing unit for COVID-19 was parked in front of the Miami Beach Police Department. A line of people circled around the block.

Miami Beach resident Alexa Hincapia says it took her two hours to get a test. She rubbed her nose and still had tears in her eyes from the nasal swab that was used to take her sample.

“Someone at my job tested positive for COVID-19 and they asked us all to get a test,” she said. The results will take about four days to come back.

“I don’t have any symptoms but until I get the results back I’m going to stay home,” she said. “This thing is real.”

Daniel Rivero is part of WLRN's new investigative reporting team. Before joining WLRN, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion. He can be reached at drivero@wlrnnews.org
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