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Clearwater Will Close Beaches Due to Coronavirus, Beginning March 23

Clearwater Beach is a popular spot for spring breakers, and will close to the public for two weeks beginning March 23.
Pinellas County Marketing and Communications
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Clearwater City Council voted Wednesday 4-1 to close public beaches for two weeks over fears of coronavirus -- but the order doesn't begin until Monday morning.

Business owners representing restaurants and vacation rentals spoke out against the decision, and asked that any closure be limited to two weeks, and not take effect until after this weekend. 

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said closing was the right thing to do.

"When you are the number one beach in the country, people look to you, and they look to you to be a leader,” he said.

"This was a very difficult decision for all of us. We understand the impact that it has on our businesses but we also understand the impact it is going to have on our residents and our visitors. We are trying to protect people's health."

The beach will close at 6 a.m. March 23, as part of a wider state of emergency declared by the city.

Restaurants will stay open, but a  Pinellas County order says alcohol can't be served after 10 p.m.

Beaches in Tampa, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale have already been closed by local emergency orders.

Clearwater Beach is one of the only beaches in Florida that stays open 24 hours.

It is a popular spot for spring breakers, with as many as 30,000 people visiting daily.

Images of the beach, packed with spring break visitors ignoring Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggestions to keep a safe distance from each other, went viral last weekend.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.