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Fort Myers Beach mayor says town will make beach changes if needed

The City of Naples shut down its beaches this weekend due to lack of social distancing, after the short-lived reopening during Phase 1 of the state’s plan amid the coronavirus pandemic. A lot of people blame the fact beachgoers were not social distancing on the beach at Naples Pier due to those visiting from the east coast.

Now, there is a question of whether The Town Fort Myers Beach will follow Naples and shut down its beach too. We spoke to the town mayor about concerns for the possible spread of the coronavirus.

A gloomy day on Fort Myers Beach Sunday did not stop some people from enjoying their Mother’s Day weekend out by the sand and the water.

All day we saw decent-sized crowds of beachgoers, many doing their best to incorporate social distancing — quite the contrary to what we saw in Naples on Saturday.

The coronavirus isn’t keeping Jessica Valdes from enjoying Mother’s Day weekend in Southwest Florida.

“We needed to get out,” said Valdes, who was visiting the region from Miami. “This coronavirus had us feeling a little under the weather, like depressed and stuff.”

So Valdes and her family made the two-hour drive from Miami to Fort Myers Beach.

I do see people are keeping their distance,” Valdes said.

But that wasn’t the case on other Southwest Florida beaches this weekend.

Naples Beach was overrun with large crowds and almost zero social distancing. The city shut it down at midnight due to coronavirus concerns. It doesn’t surprise Mayor Ray Murphy of Fort Myers Beach, who voted against reopening the beaches.

“What happened to Naples could very well happen to us,” Murphy said. “As a matter of fact, it was borderline that up here yesterday on our beaches as well.”

Murphy said the town isn’t afraid to take further action if people don’t social distance.

“We could do the same if need be again,” Murphy said.

Another concern is about visitors coming from Florida’s east coast and overpopulating local beaches during a time of social distancing in place.

“We have to be cautious of our friends because right now they’re coming from the hot spot,” Murphy said.

With Memorial Day approaching, Murphy told us the town expects large crowds at the beach. Town leaders hope people do their best to follow the rules in place, as they will be monitoring crowds.

Murphy says Fort Myers Beach will continue to do its part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I don’t want to do it,” Murphy said. “But, if it’s going to take the heavy hand of the law to start enforcing this with tickets and fines and so forth and so on, and that’s the way it’s gonna have to be.”

Reporter:Brea Hollingsworth
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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