GILCHRIST COUNTY, Fla. — As social activity in public places increases during Phase 1 of Florida's plan to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people are taking advantage of the state's newly reopened parks and outdoor areas. That was blatantly obvious over the weekend at Ginnie Springs, where crowds packed in to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend.
A YouTube user uploaded a video from Saturday, proclaiming "social distancing at its best!" as people packed into the water on rafts and floats.
One clip of the video includes dozens of people within a few yards of each other cramming into the springs' water as they prepared to float downstream. Other clips showed campsites and tents set up along the banks.
There appeared to be little to no regard for attempts to practice social distancing by some of the people in the video.
A post on Ginnie Springs' Facebook page regarding Memorial Day weekend admission says "Please, no groups larger than 10 people and practice social distancing from other park guests." However, one raft could be seen in the video with at least 12 people on board or leaning onto it from another flotation device.
In a post on May 1, the attraction posted to its Facebook page it was reopening alongside the rest of Gilchrist County's parks.
"We are taking the following precautionary steps," the post said. It went on to say check-in would be handled as an outside, open-air process; the number of guests inside the general store would be limited; and payment would be urged to be handled through debit or credit cards.
"While visiting, please practice social distancing," the post said. "No groups larger than 10 people. As the situation surrounding COVID-19 is constantly changing, we will keep our website and social media outlets updated with the latest park information."
Over the weekend, images and videos from the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri went viral, setting off major backlash throughout the nation on social media.
The images and videos included people of all ages huddled around swim-up bars, hanging out in large groups.
In photos, you see a banner reading: "Please practice social distancing — 6 feet apart"
“This is one of our big weekends. Everyone knows that," he said. "So, if people made the conscientious decision to come down here and to participate at whatever level they elect to participate, they have made that decision.”
Olivarri said it's impossible for them to regulate what customers do.
“Part of the responsibility falls on the individual patron,” he said.