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A southwest Florida city closed its beaches Sunday – just one week after reopening them – because visitors failed to follow social distancing measures meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus, officials said.
The beaches of Naples in Collier County were crowded with beachgoers Saturday, a potential problem that Councilman Gary Price said was brought to his attention.
Price told the Naples Daily News he went to check out the beaches after a friend texted him about the vast number of people on the sands. The councilman took photos and shared them with the paper.
“I went to the beach,” Price said. “It was packed. People were parking everywhere, blocks away.”
But residents of Naples called the closures unfair and blamed tourists for packing the beaches in complaints posted to the paper’s Facebook page.
“Not fair that Collier County residents cannot enjoy their beaches,” Lauren Cibelli wrote. “I was at the beach during the week, and everyone practiced social distancing. This is not right that residents suffer.”
Resident Jeremy Tipton said the city “shouldn’t punish us all” because of out-of-towners.
“Been to the beach every day in Naples,” he wrote. “The areas I visit are only locals and very empty. It’s a far contrast than what shown by the news.”
Price acknowledged the inconvenience to residents but said the closure was done to protect citizens. He said the City Council will hold an emergency meeting Monday about the issue.
"It's pretty sad," he said. "It's such a popular place. We'll figure it out. We are doing this to keep people safe. We are erring on the side of caution."
A week earlier, authorities in Miami Beach closed a public park just five days after it reopened because park rangers issued thousands of warnings in a matter of days to visitors for not wearing face masks.
While beaches in much of the state reopened last week, the shores of Miami Beach have remained closed.
Meanwhile, barbershops, hair salons, and nail salons reopened Monday with restrictions in all counties currently in Phase 1 of the state’s “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step” plan. The only counties not able to open were Broward and Miami-Dade. Those two were expected to begin reopening May 18.
The coronavirus has killed 1,735 of the 40,982 people infected with the disease in Florida as of Monday, according to state health department data.