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Law enforcement to monitor social distancing at Shell Point Beach

Posted at 7:33 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 19:33:56-04

SHELL POINT BEACH, Fla. (WTXL) — Cabin fever now over for people looking to sink their toes in the sand.

Monday night, the Wakulla County Board of Commission voted to open Shell Point Beach, and folks didn't waste any time getting out of the house.

Families we spoke with say this is a welcome break in the middle of this pandemic.

Shell Point Beach is the only beach in the Big Bend, putting the Sheriff's office on alert for a wave of visitors.

The towels are down, the umbrellas open, and almost a return normalcy.

"My grandkids, they love the beach and I love the beach and I feel free that I don't have to be, I don't know, with a mask all the time, every time I stepped out," said Isabel Mir, a beach goer from Tallahassee. "So this is like going back to the way things were before."

However, there are warning signs posted reminding beach goers to keep a safe social distance and no more than 10 people are allowed in a group.

People are still encouraged to wear masks.

Visitors will also notice more of a presence, with sheriff's deputies standing by ready to enforce CDC guidelines with civil punishment if need be.

Those found violating social distancing guidelines could end up facing a judge on a misdemeanor charge.

"We're always going to give warnings first and if that doesn't work then we have the option of issuing a citation, a second-degree misdemeanor for violation of a public health ordinance that's currently put in place by the governor," said Lt. Chris Savary, with the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office. "So that's available, you receive a notice to appear. For that, we won't take them right to jail, but it's the same thing as an arrest. Now that's the last thing that we want to do."

Many of the officers are on 12 hour shifts, making sure the public stays safe while enjoying the rays.

Some include school safety officers pitching in, since they no longer have hallways to patrol.

Authorities want beach goers to know there could be consequences if they don't adhere to rules.