Jacksonville-area coronavirus updates: Duval County Public Schools moving high school graduations to July

NORTHEAST FLORIDA, SOUTHEAST GEORGIA — More than 23,300 people in Florida and 16,300 people in Georgia have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia as schools, businesses and public events are closed or canceled.

Action News Jax has the very latest information on Florida and Georgia cases of the coronavirus LIVE on FOX30 and CBS47. Click here to watch.

Duval County Public Schools moving high school graduations to July

April 17, 3:35 p.m.: Action News Jax has confirmed that Duval County Public Schools is moving its high school graduations to July.

DCPS Superintendent Diana Greene wrote a letter to Duval seniors, saying in part:

"It is clear now that we will not be able to safely gather to hold graduation ceremonies as normal next month. To do so would put all attendees and our community at risk of the dangerous consequences of the virus. While we will not be able to hold a traditional commencement ceremony, we still intend to honor your wishes.

“Thousands of you replied to our survey about the most desirable alternative to traditional commencement ceremonies, and overwhelmingly, you asked for traditional ceremonies later this summer. Therefore, we have already begun planning traditional ceremonies for a nontraditional time, July 2020. I will continue to keep you and your families informed as these plans are completed. Also, I want to assure you that your official graduation date and your diploma are not affected by delaying the ceremonies. These will reflect normal dates associated with the completion of your graduation requirements.”

St. Johns County to partially reopen beaches

April 17, 12:30 p.m.: The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office announced beaches in the county have been opened from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m., seven days a week for exercise that includes motion. Public parking lots will reopen, but beach parking remains closed. Lifeguards may not be on duty, so swim and surf at your own risk.

What is allowed:

  • Walking, running
  • Surfing
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Other physical exercises or activities consistent with social distancing

What is not allowed:

  • Sunbathing or sitting on the beach
  • Blankets, towels and chairs
  • Coolers
  • Umbrellas and tents
  • Any item that promotes a stationary presence
  • Gatherings larger than ten people

City of Jacksonville reiterates restrictions on beach reopening

The City of Jacksonville sent a released guidelines on allowed and prohibited activities on Duval beaches when they reopen, starting Friday at 5 p.m. Beaches in Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic beach will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

What is allowed:

  • Walking and running
  • Biking
  • Fishing
  • Dog walking, which is allowed during all hours the beaches are open
  • Swimming
  • Surfing
  • Participating in recreational activities consistent with social guidelines

What is prohibited:

  • Sunbathing
  • Towels and blankets
  • Chairs
  • Coolers
  • Grills
  • Loitering on the beach without moving
  • Congregating in groups larger than 10 people

“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. “Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbors.”

Nassau County beaches to remain closed

April 17, 10:40 a.m.: Nassau County commissioners said its beaches will remain closed following a meeting Friday morning to discuss the status of the beaches. They do not want to open the beaches without a plan in place.

Florida governor waives laws to expedite unemployment assistance

April 17, 10 a.m.: During a press conference Friday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he has waived three laws that will expedite relief so Floridians can receive assistance faster. Those laws include the work search requirement, the waiting week, and the law that requires to re-certify employment every two weeks.

DeSantis also announced they have brought in 100 new servers to help with Florida filing unemployment problems. There are now at least 2,000 people who will work in the unemployment call centers and call capacity has been expanded, DeSantis said.

If you don’t have access to the website, DeSantis said Federal Express will allow people to print paper applications. DeSantis stated FedEx is printing and sending the applications for free following a state partnership.

Beaches will reopen today in Duval County with limitations; Status of other county beaches

April 17, 5 a.m.: Beaches in Duval County will reopen today at 5 p.m., with restrictions for essential activities only, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Thursday. As defined in Governor Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order, essential activities include the following:

  • Participating in recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing

Duval County beaches will open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. each morning and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. each evening. They will remain closed during all other time periods. Please be advised that you are swimming and surfing at your own risk.

In Jacksonville Beach, public parking is available West of 1st Street. Public parking lots and end zones will be closed east of 1st Street.

Status of other beaches in Northeast Florida, Southeast Georgia area

Action News Jax is reaching out to other local counties on the status of their beaches following Curry’s decision to reopen Duval County beaches with limitations.

Here’s what we have been told so far:

  • St. Johns County officials said its beaches will remain closed and they will not base their decision off of what other areas are doing.
  • Nassau County said its beaches will remain closed following a meeting Friday morning to discuss the status of the beaches.
  • Glynn County beaches have been open since April 3 solely for the purpose of exercise in accordance with Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-in-place order.

Today at 11 a.m., Beaches Mayors -- Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham, Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown, and Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser -- will hold a press conference regarding the opening of Duval County beaches at the lifeguard station in Jacksonville Beach.

Parks in Jacksonville will also reopen today at 5 p.m.

Parks that are owned and operated by the City of Jacksonville will resume normal hours starting at 5 p.m. Friday, April 17. However, Mayor Curry’s Executive Order that limits gatherings to fewer than 50 people, still stands. In addition:

  • City of Jacksonville golf courses will reopen during normal operating hours, but individuals must follow social distancing requirements
  • No overnight camping at Hanna or Huguenot parks is permitted
  • Playground amenity usage must follow social distancing requirements
  • No organized group activities are permitted – this includes picnics or gatherings, team sports, or any type of group activity
  • All park restroom facilities will remain closed
  • Pavilions and picnic areas will remain closed