Parks, waterways reopen across South Florida with new restrictions

MIAMI (WSVN) - There isn’t a soul on the sand on South Beach, but South Floridians are anxiously waiting to return.

Many fear droves of people will flock to parks and other recently reopened public spaces as social distancing still remains in place.

Most parks and waterways, such as Pelican Harbour, are gearing up to open back up this weekend, which means they’ll be very busy.

“I gotta admit it’s amazing, after being in quarantine and locked up for so long, it feels real good to get out on the water,” boater Tony Chow said.

“I’m just excited that we can be out of the house, and I hope that we can maintain the distancing and really help out each other, so we don’t mess it up,” boater Boris Fernandez said.

Messing it up is what others are worried about if the crowds get out of hand over the weekend.

Families could be seen enjoying the beautiful weather at parks across South Florida. They weren’t overly crowded on Friday, but the weekend may change that.

“I’m sure that could happen, but we gotta accept the responsibility and do it the right way,” said a park-goer.

“Gotta obey the rules, you know. We gotta keep the rules in order to keep people safe,” Eddy Gonzalez, a boater at Haulover Park, said.

In Fort Lauderdale, northbound lanes from A1A to Las Olas to Sunrise Boulevard will be closed to traffic over the weekend to give pedestrians more room for social distancing.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be so full,” said a Fort Lauderdale resident. “I’m very cautious, so I don’t think it’s gonna be that bad, so little by little, I’m sure people are gonna start coming out. It’s not so bad.”

Some South Florida cities are moving more cautiously with the reopening process than others.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said, “I want to remind everyone that there will be zero tolerance for anyone who does not practice social distancing or do not wear masks when they should at our parks and golf courses.”

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said that if they reopen too quickly, tourists could flock to the city.

“I understand what’s happening elsewhere, but here in Dade County, here in Miami Beach, we can’t open it at the same speed,” he said. “A third of the [coronavirus] infections, a third of the deaths — 350 deaths — are in our county.”

South Florida beaches remain closed. Some experts said we are just not ready to open up the beaches yet.

“For the beaches to open, you need to be really confident that you’ve got in place testing and tracing, appropriate protocols for benchmarks, what you’re going to do if you find somebody who’s infected, who’s staying at a hotel room,” Dr. Glenn Morris of Emerging Pathogens Institute said, “so there’s work that needs to be done before I would feel comfortable saying, ‘Bring on the crowds.'”

In many parks, waterways and other public places that have reopened, such as Pelican Harbour, people are required to wear masks or other face coverings. If not, they will get a warning from police.

Miami Beach Police said that rangers in the city have handed out 900 warnings to people to wear a mask in just one day alone.

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