Bugle Miami

Spring break crowds flock to Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach amid COVID concerns

The first weekend of spring break 2021 has brought large crowds to South Florida beaches, along with concerns about the potential for a coronavirus outbreak.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, Fort Lauderdale Beach was known as the place where the boys are. On Saturday, it looked like everyone else came down as well.

“Just enjoying the weather, getting away from the cold,” said a beachgoer.

Spring breakers usually bring stress on cities like Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach, but this year adds COVID-19 worries to the mix.

Local leaders said they welcome visitors to their beaches, but stressed that they have to play by the rules.

“We understand there’s a lot of angst to get out and enjoy our beautiful weather and our beautiful beach, but we’re just asking for cooperation from our college students that do decide to come to Fort Lauderdale,” said Fort Lauderdale Police Assistant Interim Cheif Frank Sousa.

No alcohol is allowed on the beach, and no Uber or Lyft drop-offs are permitted along A1A , which was packed Saturday afternoon. Electronic signs are in place to remind beachgoers to keep up their social distancing.

Fort Lauderdale Police officers have stayed visible throughout the weekend.

Local businesses echoed leaders’ calls for patrons to adhere to safety regulations.

“Today we were very busy all day long,” said Fabio Vaccarella, chef and owner of Casa Del Mare Ristorante along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard.

Vaccarella said he has been trying to keep up with the crowds and enforcing the rules at his open-air restaurant.

“The reaction is 80% fine and some people, they don’t really believe in wearing face masks and don’t respect sometimes,” he said, “We try to do our best to make everybody happy.”

Mask wearing has been sporadic at times among spring breakers.

“Hotels, yes. Restaurants, yes, but pretty much, bars and breweries don’t seem to care, and I feel like they should implement it more,” said Kyle Heusbourg, who is visiting from Minnesota.

In Miami Beach, city leaders are also hoping to keep things as calm as possible, with the beach open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and sidewalk cafes shutting down at midnight.

“I think we’re expecting a larger than typical spring break,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

There is also an increased police presence on South Beach.

Officials in Broward and Miami-Dade counties are urging revelers to party responsibly or risk arrest.

“I already had COVID, so I’m not worried about catching it,” said a Fort Lauderdale Beach reveler.

“COVID? I think I’ve had it, I think,” said another beachgoer. “Yep, still living.”

Officials in Broward County debated implementing a curfew during a three-week period but decided against it.

Nevertheless, Fort Lauderdale officials said they will not hesitate to shut down a business temporarily if it’s caught violating the rules.

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