Spring Breakers pack into Florida beach towns despite pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic continues but you wouldn’t know it by looking at Florida’s beaches.

“Florida hasn’t skipped a beat,” Jack Gumeinny, a 21-year-old junior at Davenport University who flew to Fort Lauderdale for the week, told the Sun Sentinel. Mr Gumeinny said that he and his friends were planning to hit up some bars and a strip club, and did not seem concerned about the lack of social distancing.

“We’re not in the at-risk group,” he told the Sentinel.

Some local officials are concerned that the situation could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases, as was the case after last year’s Spring Break.

“We could potentially see a truly outsized spring break at a time when the last thing we want are major gatherings,” Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach told the Wall Street Journal.

Raul Aguila, Miami Beach’s interim city manager, was even more blunt.

“If you are coming here with an anything-goes party attitude, change your flight reservation now and go to Vegas,” Aguila said at a city council meeting. “Miami Beach is not going to tolerate anarchy.”

This week’s crowds reminded many of Spring Break 2020, when far-flung partiers poured into Florida even as the pandemic was beginning to force other states into lockdown. Florida’s coronavirus cases ticked up afterwards, and dozens of Spring Breakers returned home to other states with the virus.

This year, local leaders are imposing new rules to keep the situation under control. In Miami Beach, a midnight curfew is in place, and alcohol is prohibited on private beaches. In Fort Lauderdale, steel barriers have been placed between bars to enforce social distancing.

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Young people without masks pack into Cafe Ibiza, a bar in Fort Lauderdale, on March 4, 2021

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Young people without masks pack into Cafe Ibiza, a bar in Fort Lauderdale, on March 4, 2021

(Getty Images)

But because of state policies, there are limits on how far such restrictions can go. In September last year, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning local governments from shutting down bars and restaurants, protecting their right to remain open at at least 50 per cent capacity.

This week, Spring Breakers appeared to be taking full advantage of that policy.

One Fort Lauderdale resident, Chad McCoury, was so alarmed by a dense crowd of dancers at the bar Cafe Ibiza that he showed a video of it to the police.

“They did not have masks on. It looked like a dance club,” McCoury told the Sun Sentinel. “I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re just in week one. I hope this is not how it’s going to be.’”

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