What coronavirus? St. George Island’s ‘Wet and Wild’ tradition continues

Students at Florida State University prepare to celebrate Independence Day on St.George Island. Photo by Beyla Walker

ST. GEORGE ISLAND — It’s July 4, the day when millions of families flock to the beach for a day filled with under the sun fun. This year, however, many counties in the Sunshine State have made the decision to close their beaches, canceling any plans that were set in motion.

COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, continues to rip through Florida as cases in the state reach a daily record-breaking number with 10,109 cases in a single day earlier this week despite the attempt to curb the spread of the disease through social distancing and other protective measures. South Florida beaches including South Beach and Collier County Beach, two major tourist attractions, will be closed through the weekend due to soaring coronavirus cases. Meanwhile, others municipalities have taken a different route.

Residents and tourists in Franklin County, a small coastal community a little more than an hour southwest of Tallahassee, known for its fresh seafood and Southern charm, are continuing their Independence Day festivities as they kick it on St. George Island.

Despite locals voicing their concerns over tourists flocking to the county and possibly spreading the virus, the annual “Wet and Wild” parade took place today with dozens of people gathered together.

Njeri Thompson, a worker at Aunt Ebby’s Ice Cream, a popular chill spot on St. George Island, was not opposed to the annual parade taking place.

“I think that parade is a good example of social distancing,” Thompson said. “There is more than enough room on the street for people to distance themselves.”

Although Thompson, who has worked at the ice cream parlor for two years, agreed with the county’s decision to keep the beaches open for the holiday, others were not happy.

Shameika Lake, a 22-year-old resident of Franklin County, brought up an interesting fact.

“I feel like the beach should be closed along with other beaches,” Lake said. “Cases aren’t doing anything but going up and that’s not what we need.”

Speaking of other beaches, numerous beaches ranging from Central to South Florida are closed for the weekend.

According to the Miami Herald, “If you’re looking to celebrate the Fourth sunbathing on the sand with a piña colada in your hand, you’ll have to take a road trip up north. South Florida beaches are closing for the holiday weekend because of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.”

Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez tweeted, “After consulting with our County’s public health experts, I will be signing an emergency order to close all beaches in Miami-Dade County starting Friday, July 3, and ending Tuesday, July 7.”

As counties continue to take protective measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 during this holiday weekend, you can catch hundreds of people mingling on the sandy beach of St. George Island.