Manatee, Sarasota counties stagger beach closings, starting Friday

Officials in Manatee and Sarasota counties decided together they should close their beaches before the weekend. 

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the sand along Manatee County will close starting Friday, March 20 at 6 a.m. Sarasota's beaches will close starting Saturday, March 21 at 6 a.m.

Meanwhile, tourists are disappointed. Lisa Schmidt and her family flew from Texas to vacation on Siesta Key. COVID-19 wasn't a major worry to her family. 

"I'm here for spring break with my kids and they’re out there having a blast," she said. "People sneeze and cough and you kind of back off." 

The beach seemed like a perfect getaway from the virus, but local leaders saw trouble coming their way. 

"6 a.m tomorrow, Manatee County beaches will be closed for the foreseeable future," said Jacob Saur, public safety director for Manatee County. 

Sarasota County followed suit. 

"6 a.m Saturday, we will be closing the facilities and beaches here in Sarasota County," said Jonathan Lewis the Sarasota County administrator. 

Manatee County beaches will close on Friday at 6 a.m. followed by Sarasota County one day later, on Saturday at 6 a.m. 

MORE: Pinellas County votes to close all public beaches and parking starting Friday

It's in response to beach closures throughout the state. Officials were worried more visitors would flock to the area. 

"Some of our neighboring communities and communities from around the state are closing their beaches, and we’ve become very worried about what that impact will look like on our beaches as people move from their beaches to ours," said Lewis. 

Parking for Sarasota and Manatee County beaches will be eliminated and blocked for the time being. 

"It's an access issue, we are closing off parking for beaches and making well aware by sign messages," said Saur. 

A sign of the ever-changing times, as COVID-19 becomes the focus across the globe. 

"We thought it was imperative for public health that we close these beaches for the foreseeable future until we can better understand this public health crisis and the safety of our residents," said Saur. 

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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