‘It’s a tough decision’ – County, city beaches to close Sunday

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Not long after authorities decided to shut down all county beaches, Vero Beach City Manager Monte Falls took a tour of the shoreline Saturday afternoon.

The thinned-out crowds of people at Humiston Park, South Beach Park and Jaycee Park would be a sight that will soon fade away. The access points at city beaches, along with county beaches, will close by 6 p.m. Sunday until further notice as a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, officials said.

“This is a tough decision. It’s a serious issue,” Falls said. “We’re trying to follow guidelines from health officials. We’re taking these steps to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors. We have to air on the side of caution.”

The announcement comes as the number of people with coronavirus continues to rise statewide. Late Saturday, there were at least five people in Indian River County who tested positive for the virus, also known as COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health.

This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the closings of bars, nightclubs and restricted restaurant service to take-out or dine in. DeSantis has not issued a statewide order to close the beaches, leaving the decision up to local governments.

Several counties across Florida have already closed their beaches to residents. Falls said the city has daily conference calls with county authorities to receive updates on the novel coronavirus.

Indian River County spokesman Brian Sullivan said the county previously left the beaches open because they don’t get as crowded as beaches further south, like Fort Lauderdale or Miami. It was unclear how long the beaches would be closed.

“(The virus) something we’ve been monitoring throughout the week,” Sullivan said. “We’re closing beaches to mitigate the spreading of the virus as much as possible. It was the best course of action.”

Erik Toomsoo, president of the Vero Beach Lifeguard Association, previously said he hoped authorities would not close the beaches. Saturday, Toomsoo said he supports the decision.

“They’re trying to do what’s best for the community,” Toomsoo said. “We have to support it.”

Beaches are normally closed when hurricanes sweep toward or impact the Florida coast. But, Toomsoo said this is the first time beaches have been closed because of a worldwide pandemic illness.

“If everyone shelters in place, we will be healthier in the long run,” Toomsoo said.

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