PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Just two weeks ago, spring breakers flocked to beaches in Florida – including several in Pinellas County – to soak up the sun. Now, most of the same beaches that were packed to the brim are virtually empty as state and local leaders try to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Video shot by Eagle 8 HD on March 16 quickly went viral. It showed massive crowds at Clearwater Beach – one of the top beaches in the country – despite concerns over the coronavirus.
At the time, social distancing was encouraged but no local orders had been put in place to avoid beaches or stay at home.
The video sparked fierce backlash on social media with users criticizing local officials for keeping the beaches open. Criticism also poured in for those who were at the beach, ignoring social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.
Since that video was taken, beaches in Pinellas County have been shut down and “safer-at-home” orders have been put in place in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Eagle 8 HD flew over some of Pinellas County’s most popular beaches again on March 31, just more than two weeks after the original video was taken, and saw the stark difference those two weeks made. The beaches are now virtually empty with just a few families or small groups walking along the sand, spread out and away from other beachgoers.
Clearwater Beach and other beaches in Pinellas County will remain closed through at least April 6.