Coronavirus: Beaches, parks in Duval County will reopen Friday with certain restrictions

NORTHEAST FLORIDA, SOUTHEAST GEORGIA — More than 22,500 people in Florida and 15,200 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.

Status of other Northeast Florida beaches during COVID-19 pandemic

April 16, 5:50 p.m.: Now that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has announced that beaches and parks throughout Duval County will reopen Friday, April 17, 2020 at 5 p.m., with restrictions for essential activities only, Action News Jax is reaching out to other counties on the status of their beaches.

  • Nassau County said its beaches remain closed, but county officials will hold a meeting on Friday morning and the status of the beaches will be discussed.
  • St. Johns County officials told Action News Jax reporter Russell Colburn that St. Johns County beaches remain closed and they will not base their decision off of what other areas are doing.
  • In Southeast Georgia, 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.

On Friday 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.

Beaches, parks in Duval County will reopen Friday with certain restrictions

April 16, 4:50 p.m.: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced that beaches and parks throughout Duval County will reopen Friday, April 17, 2020 at 5 p.m., with restrictions for essential activities only. 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

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

In addition to limits on activities, 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.

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

National Guard takes over Lot J; testing criteria dropped and testing capacity increased

April 16, 4 p.m.: The federal government has handed the reins off to the state for the Lot J COVID-19 testing site.

With the state now in charge, the amount of people who can be tested daily has increased from 400 to 750. Last week, it was only 250.

The testing criteria guidelines have also been lessened. You can now get tested, even if you do not have symptoms. This is so long as you fit one of the following categories:

  • First responder
  • Medical personnel
  • Has underlying health condition
  • Traveled to hot spot recently
  • Gone on cruise
  • Came in contact with someone who is positive

You can also get tested if you have respiratory symptoms.

JTA says bus operator has tested positive for COVID-19

April 16, 2:20 p.m.: The Jacksonville Transportation Authority said one of its bus operators has tested positive for COVID-19.

The bus driver is in quarantine and receiving medical care, JTA said.

JTA said this is the first positive case at JTA and it has been sending any employees thought to have come into contact with this person home to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

JTA said it wants to advise its customers which routes this operator drove over the past week. Those duties include:

- April 13: Drove Route 22 (Avenue B) and 3 (Moncrief)

o Bus 2213 from 6:21 a.m. – 6:55 a.m.

o Bus 2608 from 7:25 a.m. – 1:51 p.m.

- April 14: Route 26 (Argyle Forest/Buckman) and 28 (Southside/Sunbeam)

o Bus 2604 from 6:30 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.

- April 15: Route 22 (Avenue B) and 3 (Moncrief)

o Bus 2213 from 6:21 a.m. – 1:51 p.m.

JTA said its employees will continue to wear proper personal protective equipment while at work. Modified schedules and reduced capacity on board JTA buses will continue until further notice. For more information on what precautions are in place, visit www.jtafla.com.

Jacksonville mayor talking with Beaches mayors about possibility of limited re-opening of beaches

April 16, 12:30 p.m.: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he’s been in conversation with Beaches mayors about the possibility of re-opening Duval County beaches in a limited manner for exercise and recreational purposes.

However, Curry said, for now, the beaches remain closed. He said no date for such an opening has been set yet.

Ponte Vedra financial analyst speaks regarding jobless claims

April 16, 7:30 a.m.: Financial analyst, Jim Newman spoke with Action News Jax anchor Phil Amato about the latest unemployment numbers and Wall Street.

Officials said 5.2 million people filed for unemployment last week in the United States.