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Coronavirus comes for spring break: Local officials close Florida beaches after governor refuses to

At the height of the spring break rush, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he would not order the beaches closed.

Local officials in Florida towns and cities are taking it upon themselves to close beaches amid the coronavirus outbreak after Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to, even as spring breakers and others crowd the shores.

At the height of the college break rush, DeSantis said Tuesday that he would not order the beaches closed, but he did limit parties on beaches to 10 people per group.

DeSantis said it's "not uniform throughout the state that you're seeing massive crowds at beaches," despite reports and images of people packing the sand.

Image: Spring break revelers at Pompano Beach
Spring break revelers play chicken fight at Pompano Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.Julio Cortez / AP

Still, the mayors of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, two of the most popular beach destinations in the state, issued orders to close their beaches last Sunday.

Public beaches in Tampa are also closed until further notice, city officials said.

Naples announced Wednesday that it would close its beaches until March 30.

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All public beaches in Miami-Dade County will close as of Thursday night, Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez announced Wednesday. Parks, nonessential retail, private educational facilities, casinos and other recreational and entertainment activities are also ordered closed or restricted as of Thursday night, he said.

Beaches in Lee County will also close Thursday night, according to county officials. Popular beach vacation destinations Fort Myers and Sanibel are in Lee County.

On Wednesday, Clearwater voted to close its beaches starting Monday.

Clearwater Beach was relatively busy Wednesday with residents and visitors who said they chose not to cancel planned vacations over coronavirus fears.

"I feel like we're not going to stop our life because of that, but we'll definitely keep precautions," said Anamaria Nowak, 20, who was there with a friend. "We didn't come with a group of friends. We're going to stay by ourselves and not share our things."

College students and younger people in general have been criticized for not taking the virus seriously and for seeming to disregard that they could carry it to higher-risk people, like the elderly.

Clearwater's decision to close its beaches comes as neighboring beaches could stay open.

Pinellas County, where Clearwater is located, on Wednesday said that "after much consideration and deliberation," they were splitting from the pack and keeping their beaches open. But on Thursday, the Pinellas County Commission on unanimously voted to close all beaches starting on Friday, until at least April 6.

Nearly 330 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19, the state Health Department reported Wednesday night. Eight Florida residents have died.