May 31, 2020 update:
Starting on Monday, June 1, Broward County beaches are open to sunbathing, sitting or lying on the beach.
Umbrellas, canopies, chairs, loungers, and coolers also will be permitted.
Beachgoers must maintain social distancing, including when in the water, except between members of the same household or group.
May 25, 2020 update:
Beaches in Broward County were to reopen for public use on May 26, though with significant restrictions.
Walking, running or biking was to be permitted, as well as swimming, surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and body surfing.
Sunbathing, sitting or lying on the beach was not. Umbrellas, tents, canopies, chairs, loungers and coolers also were not permitted.
Those were among the puzzling protocols in the reopening of various businesses and facilities during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, not only in South Florida but throughout the country.
For instance, it was OK to go to hair salons, restaurants and certain other indoor businesses; gyms were also reopening in Broward. But it was not deemed OK to sit on a beach blanket apart from other beach goers.
Restrictions vary from county to county and city to city.
Miami-Dade County planned to reopen its beaches June 1, with sunbathing, walking and jogging allowed, as well as the renting of beach concessions like lounge chairs and umbrellas. But no groups larger than 10 people will be allowed to gather, and common areas like picnic tables and playgrounds will remain off limits.
This story was first published May 9, 2020:
By Craig Davis, Craigslegztravels.com
South Florida’s beaches and ocean waters have never appeared more inviting — or been less hospitable.
That is the paradox in one of the nation’s premier oceanfront tourist destinations in the time of coronavirus.
In early May 2020, the beaches throughout Broward and Miami-Dade counties remained closed by government order during the COVID-19 pandemic and it was unknown when they would reopen.
But oh, the water. The vibrant shades of blue, aqua, cobalt are foreign to these shores.
It has been a standout observation throughout the lockdown that began in March in South Florida.
Water quality rebounded quickly
In a report on Channel 10 Miami highlighting the change in the coastal waters, Rachel Silverstein, executive director of the clean water watchdog group Miami Waterkeeper was quoted as saying, “We don’t have any hard data about what’s going on with water quality right now, but just anecdotally, it does seem that the water quality has been able to rebound exceptionally quickly, and to be really resilient when the pressure of having a lot of visitors and folks using the waterways is lifted.”
Another factor that has nothing to do with the pandemic but much to do with the unusual water clarity has been the lack of rainfall this spring throughout the region. Consequently, there hasn’t been a need to discharge excess water through the inland canals into the ocean. A check of the South Florida Water Management District site confirmed that flood control gates are closed and pumps off.
It appears as if nature is enjoying a respite from human influences. The ocean has a happy glow. The beach similarly is bright and uncharacteristically pristine.
No seaweed in the surf or on the sand. No trash or cigarette butts. All because there are no bathers.
An afternoon drive near Hollywood Beach revealed the odd incongruity: an absolute absence of sun-worshippers on a picture-perfect beach day.
Hollywood Broadwalk to ease restrictions May 13
The renowned Hollywood Broadwalk is closed. Reams of yellow police tape reinforcing that point, barricades blocking many access openings.
It was announced that the Broadwalk would reopen May 13 for limited hours, from 6-9 a.m. daily, but not the beach.
Meanwhile, all of the elements that tourism officials proudly advertise to attract visitors were present. But in these strangest of times the message was clear: Tourists not welcome.
Not since Spring Break revelers were pointedly invited to leave as COVID-19 infections spiked in mid-March and everything was shut down.
Now there is a surreal silence along Hollywood Beach. All accommodations are shut down, from the massive Margaritaville Resort to numerous mom-and-pop motels, including one called Paradise.
No music and dancing crowds at the Bandshell.
Just some local residents walking and jogging on Surf Road that parallels the Broadwalk. No reason to stop, no place to gather.
Bars and restaurants are closed, though some were offering take-out service — Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop among them.
Beach never looked better
Most parking areas were blocked off. We found one lot farther south where several walkways provide access to the beach.
We didn’t encounter yellow tape until reaching the top of the stairs that descend to the beach. We stood there mesmerized by the brilliant water and gleaming sand that normally you’d have to travel to the islands to find.
The scene seemed to taunt us like forbidden fruit.
The only sign of life was a solitary lifeguard in a nearby station. The word in large print on the surfboard on the side of the lifeguard stand was apropos: “RESCUE”
Please do. Liberate us from this mess.
It is as if the plug has been pulled on an endless party and designated South Florida as an un-fun zone. Except that it has happened everywhere else too.
Cruise ships moving in and out of Port Everglades usually are commonplace. Under these circumstances, it was strange to see two ships outbound. They wouldn’t have been carrying passengers to begin a week of partying at sea. Cruise lines have suspended operations, most until at least the end of June.
When will life and the enjoyment of travel return to some semblance of normality? Will it ever?
Devastating for tourist industry
On Feb. 14 we attended a travel symposium in Fort Lauderdale and the presentations were all about the bountiful and wondrous opportunities to venture far and wide by ship or on land. Not a word of caution or concern was spoken at the event that day about an impending pandemic.
Mind-boggling how rapidly an invisible force spread fear and death around the world, bringing all facets of life to a standstill.
The situation makes the desire to travel even stronger. Difficult, though, to foresee when it will be feasible.
The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau has a new promotional campaign out called “Miami Shines” that beckons potential visitors to “keep Miami top of mind as a travel destination.”
It’s a tough sell when the attractions you’re promoting are closed or barricaded.
The beginning of the year looked much different when South Florida was overflowing with visitors for Super Bowl LIV. The Florida governor has speculated the event may have contributed to the spread of the virus in South Florida.
But with testing still not readily available to people not showing symptoms of COVID-19 despite the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers spreading the disease, there is no way to know the extent of it in the region.
So people suffer and the economy sputters while the government blunders.
Standing at the top of the stairs overlooking Hollywood Beach, we briefly pondered the what if of slipping under the police tape and venturing onto the beach, just to feel the warm sand on our feet. Maybe continue to the surf to enjoy a splash of that clear, cool water. If only for a moment.
Just then a beach patrol ATV came zooming along the beach, on high alert for any trespassers. We froze in our tracks. A few minutes later he returned, ensuring the sanctity of the sand.
We’d have a better chance of getting into Area 51, it seemed.
One day it will be safe — and allowable — to return to the beaches and the party will resume. But right now the pleasures that until recently were easy to take for granted are off limits. So close, yet out of reach.