It finally happened. Jacksonville beaches will reopen to the public in Duval County. The move, announced Thursday evening in a press conference, is an attempt to give residents a sense of normalcy while still maintaining social distancing rules. 

“Folks, his can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Thursday during the briefing. “Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbors.”

Beaches throughout the county will officially open at 5 p.m. on Friday. Moving forward, their hours of operation will be 6-11 a.m. and then 5-8 p.m. daily.

The decision also included city parks, which will resume normal operating hours.

Mayor Curry also thanked the community for following the safe-at-home order that was placed on April 3, and their continued practice of social distancing while in public. 

"The data in Duval County is encouraging, but we need to stay the course and continue to take precautions. We'll get back to life as we know it, but we must be patient," he continued.

The mayors of the beaches are expected to hold a news conference Friday at 11 a.m. before the opening.

Beaches like Jacksonville, Neptune, Atlantic, and Mayport Poles that have been closed since March 20 following the city's executive order will resume with tight restrictions.

Activities such as walking, biking, running, swimming, taking care of pets, and surfing are considered OK at this time.

The city emphasizes that this is meant for exercise only. They warn those not to bring chairs, coolers, or towels for sunbathing, as it won't be permitted.

"Public safety officials like lifeguards and police departments will be enforcing these restrictions," a tweet from the city mentions

The choice to open the beaches and parks up again is a signal that the tides may be turning.

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