Florida residents are learning an important lesson this week: never underestimate the power of a good costume to send a clear message. A Florida lawyer is counting on his macabre protest to make people think twice about having a beach day while coronavirus still spreads at record rates in the Sunshine State.
Daniel Uhlfelder, a Santa Rosa Beach lawyer, has documented his trek around Florida beaches where he’s gone dressed as the Grim Reaper to remind residents that they must maintain six feet apart. Uhlfelder’s effort comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light to reopen beaches on April 24, provided that anyone on the beach still abides by social distancing guidelines. The same day DeSantis announced that the beaches would be reopened, the state recorded its highest number of new confirmed cases in a single day.
Despite DeSantis’ guidelines, images of Floridians flooding beaches show that many — if not most — are not abiding by the new restrictions. This was most evident after Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry reopened beaches on April 17. Jacksonville beaches were reportedly packed with residents standing in groups without masks.
Enter Daniel Uhlfelder, who is attempting to mitigate this issue in his community through, well, less than traditional methods. This week, Uhlfelder promised to don his best black-hooded robe and scythe as the Grim Reaper and travel around Florida beaches to spread the word that not only is crowding the beaches in the height of a pandemic a bad idea but a potentially deadly one.
“I felt like something needed to be done, because they’re moving very quickly to open beaches prematurely,” Uhlfelder told NBC News. “Wearing a Grim Reaper costume seems like a good way to send a signal that this is too fast and that we need to think seriously before we take that step.”
Many of you have asked if I am willing to travel around Florida wearing Grim Reaper attire to the beaches and other areas of the state opening up prematurely. The answer is absolutely yes. Beginning May 1 we will hit the road here in state. Please retweet and spread the word. pic.twitter.com/UO7QKg161n
— Daniel Uhlfelder (@DWUhlfelderLaw) April 22, 2020
Although the beaches in question are making very specific requirements —like no chairs, no large groups, and no sunbathing — Uhlfelder says that the “premature” opening is leading many to act on their own accord. Now, he’s taken this effort into his own hands. “Many of you have asked if I am willing to travel around Florida wearing Grim Reaper attire to the beaches and other areas of the state opening up prematurely,” Uhlfelder wrote on Twitter. “The answer is absolutely yes.”
This isn’t Uhlfelder’s first attempt to advocate for Florida beaches to remain closed. This just happens to be the most eye-catching attempt. Last month, he filed a lawsuit against Florida and DeSantis in hopes to institute a statewide injunction to close the beaches and urge the governor to issue a stay-at-home order.
As of April 29, Florida has 32,838 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,170 reported deaths. According to the New York Times, the state’s new cases are on a downward trend overall, but the spread is far from over. It seems it may just be up to the Grim Reaper to save beaches in Florida from spreading the virus even further.
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