Law enforcement officials say that most everyone has gone to great lengths to comply with the many restrictions imposed upon society since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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OKALOOSA ISLAND — A Fort Walton Beach man who just couldn’t bring himself to give up his morning beach runs has earned the dubious distinction of being the first, and thus far only, county resident cited for violating the governor’s shelter in place executive order.


Law enforcement officials say that most everyone has gone to great lengths to comply with the many restrictions imposed upon society since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


"Northwest Florida residents have been very respectful of the quarantine. We’ve had very insignificant problems, really no problems, with enforcement," said Bill Eddins, the state attorney for Florida’s First Judicial Circuit. "As far as I am aware no arrests have been made in the Circuit, and if there were it was something very minor or I’d have been made aware."


The First Judicial Circuit encompasses Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton and Escambia counties.


Okaloosa County deputies have responded to 221 "ordinance calls," since March 21, according to the agency’s records division. Gov. Ron DeSantis issued his "Safer At Home," shelter in place order, the strictest of numerous coronavirus-related executive orders, April 1.


It went into effect at 12:01 a.m., April 3, and at shortly after 8:30 a.m. the same day, the county issued its first and only citation.


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A police report indicated the 26-year-old man who was ticketed for violating a state of emergency ordinance was also issued a one-year trespass warning stating he was not allowed on the property of Gulf Dunes condominium complex on Okaloosa Island.


The man had parked several times prior to April 3 beside a dumpster on Gulf Dunes property and had thrown away numerous notes posted on his vehicle warning him not to do so.


He "walked around a closed, locked gate, passed three COVID-19 beach closed signs, as well as ignored the double red flags flying on the boardwalk," the deputies who cited the man reported.


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The offender told officers he runs on the sand to keep from aggravating a previous leg injury.


Walton County deputies are as well suited as anyone to handle the kind of complaints arising from the governor’s executive order on COVID-19. They, after all, have been dealing for almost two years with the controversy created when the law created by controversial HB 631 turned the county’s beaches into a battleground over what constitutes private and public beach.


Just as with the battle over the beach, there are some people out there just looking to, as Sheriff Michael Adkinson put it, "stick their toe over the line."


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"There are always some who are trying to play close to the edges," he said.


The majority of complaints Walton County officials are hearing come from people noticing out-of-state license plates, or reporting homes being rented in violation of another state ordinance outlawing short-term rentals.


"There are so many things around this issue. There’s no list of who can come in. If somebody is here from Chicago, it is unlikely you can do something about it, but you can go out there and say, ’You need to quarantine in place for 14 days,’ " he said.


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Adkinson said he and his officers "don’t like enforcing this any more than anyone else does."


"There’s a lot of frustration out there and a lot of people are going to vent on us," he said. "We’ve just got to take this. We are the face of government. We’ve got to turn the other cheek, for lack of a better word."


In the city of Crestview most of the police interactions with the public have occurred at closed playgrounds where people "were simply trying to get some fresh air," said Police Maj. Andrew Schneider.


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"We have had less than eight incidents where we requested people to leave playgrounds after explaining the order," he said.


He said the also Police Department received multiple complaints about a church group soliciting money along the roadway. This, he said violates not only the governor’s order, but also laws pertaining to standing in the road and solicitation of donations.


The group complied with a request to end their donation drive.


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Nothing on the Emerald Coast has come close to matching what law enforcement officials report from other areas of the state.


The Orlando Sentinel reported officials were threatening a $500 fine or criminal charges after Seminole County discovered residents who had tested positive for COVID-19 violating quarantine orders by heading out to shop or run errands.


"Under a judicial order issued Monday, people who leave home after being ordered to isolate or quarantine could be held at the jail on a second-degree misdemeanor — without the chance to immediately post bail for release." the newspaper reported.


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No violations of a Department of Health-ordered quarantine have been reported in Okaloosa County, said Health Department spokeswoman Allison McDaniel.


"To-date based on information that has been provided to us, DOH-Okaloosa has not had to contact any persons under public health monitoring or involve law enforcement related to individuals violating self-isolation or self-quarantine," she said.


If a violation of quarantine is documented, a county health officer could seek an order of quarantine or isolation signed by the state’s surgeon general, McDaniel said. A violation of such an agreement could lead to police being notified.


Eddins said a worst case violation scenario he could foresee is having an infected person spit on or otherwise assault someone else.


"I will aggressively prosecute any such case that occurs in the First Judicial Circuit," he said.