Set aside our assumptions about Florida and this isn’t unreasonable. Is walking on a beach somehow more dangerous than walking through a park? New York City, site of the single worst COVID-19 outbreak in the country — and boasting a higher population density than any place in Florida — has kept city parks open for exercise. The guidelines for park use are, in fact, remarkably similar to Jacksonville’s present beach rules: Solo exercise is permitted. Team sports and group gatherings are not. A major difference is New York’s decision to keep many of its park restrooms open to the public. On that point, Jacksonville is the more cautious municipality. (There’s a sentence no one thought they’d ever read.)
Assuming social distancing, opening beaches is a good thing. One advantage is it increases the tolerability of stay-at-home orders, and the protests popping up around the country show tolerability is a serious consideration. “It bugs me to see these restrictions on people being outside,” Dr. Edward Nardell, a Harvard School of Public Health specialist in airborne infection, told Slate. “Mental health means something as well.”
Nardell deemed outdoor transmission of the coronavirus “possible but improbable.” And for some nontrivial number of people, being able to take a walk on the beach will make social distancing more bearable for a longer time.