Despite shutdowns and closures around the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the gate to Okaloosa and Walton County beaches is open and spring breakers are here by the droves, but taking precautions of sorts.
“We’ve decided to stay at the condo and just come out to the beach,” said Autumn Carlson, who is here with her friends on spring break from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and staying at Seascape.
“We’re not eating in restaurants. We’re getting take out,” she added, noting they are trying to avoid places with closed-in air.
But they, like many others, were were taking precautions but enjoying the sun and sand Monday morning in Miramar Beach near the Whale’s Tail.
“I’m not really avoiding anything, just washing hands more often,” said Truman Mason of Lakota West High School of Cincinnati, Ohio, here on spring break.
Mason and his buddies, along with adult supervision, are staying at the Majestic Sun in Miramar Beach for the week.
“I’ve got enough Emergen-C for everyday of the trip and I’m washing my hands,” said Daved Jones.
Jones and Mason were just two of four guys from Ohio who were out playing Spike Ball on the beach Monday morning, as other lounged around in beach chairs.
Lisa Zenner, who is a teacher at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, was soaking up the sun and salt air Monday and loving it.
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“I really thought it was going to be more crowded,” Zenner said.
A little before noon, there were still empty chairs and umbrellas, but folks continued to trickle in, loaded down with water toys, coolers and more.
Zenner said they had originally planned to take their spring break with their kids in Tampa for baseball spring training. But with the cancellation of the MLB spring training last week, they switched gears and came to the Emerald Coast.
“We just booked yesterday,” Zenner said Monday about the Majestic Sun. “But I’ll take this any day.”
As for concerns about the coronavirus, she said they are washing their hands, which they do anyhow.
“I’m a teacher, so I can’t be afraid of germs,” she said. “But the saltwater and salt air is the best thing for your body. This is the best place you could be.”
Carl Royer of Lafayette Louisiana, but who lives part-time in Miramar Beach, said he’s not too concerned about the coronavirus.
“Yes, it’s a bad thing if you get it. But I’ve been a healthy fat man all my life,” said the 63-year old as he sat under his umbrella.
“I don’t understand all the people buying all the toilet paper,” Royer added, noting he has plenty of food and toilet paper. “I guess I am washing my hands a little more often.”
A group of about a dozen female students from Clemson University in South Carolina were taking in the sun on the beaches of South Walton near Pompano Joe’s Restaurant around noon Monday.
“We’re hearing so many rumors we don’t know what to do or believe,” said Holly Buxton. But either way, Buxton is prepared with three big containers of hand sanitizer, she said.
As for other precautions the Clemson girls are taking, they said they didn’t share drinks Sunday night.
The girls from Clemson have rented a house in Miramar Beach and plan to stay until Thursday, although their school is closed until April 5 due to the COVID-19.
For now, the girls said they feel safe here.
“It’ safer here than being at school,” said Ellis Turner, noting the group lives in an on-campus resident hall where everybody is touching everything.
One of the beach ambassadors stationed at the entrance to the beach near Pompano Joe’s said the most asked question the last few days has been, “Are the beaches closing due to the coronavirus?”
The answer, for now, is no.
However, the ambassador, whose job is to provide information to the beachgoers, said the maintenance crew is coming in and cleaning the restrooms and shower area three and four times a day.