For decades folks from all across the Gulf Coast have headed to the Florida panhandle for Spring Break. And not just students looking for a good time on the shimmering white beaches. The traditional family vacation took a u-turn in 2020 with the coronavirus blowing up full force just in time for Easter and Spring Break.

It took a toll on the people who have been enjoying fun in the sun during this time of year on the Emerald Coast, and many reservations were shut down in light of the drastic numbers of COVID-19 cases. It was a devastating impact on the economy as well. And we all remember that window of time when Florida was not allowing Louisiana residents to enter the state because of our spiked numbers here in the Bayou State. My family was one of the thousands who were scrambling to make other plans during the holiday.

But with coronavirus vaccines came some hope that the Florida Pandhandle might have a return to normal for this year. The tiny town of Seaside, on the historic state road of 30A issued a statement yesterday that they are pushing back their curfew from 9:00 pm to 8:00 pm. immediately. Part of the statement says "Large groups of teens have been gathering in the evening and these large groups promote underage drinking, vandalism and unruly behavior that disrupts the experience of families trying to enjoy their vacation."

And nearer to Destin, the Okaloosa Public Safety Director Patrick Maddox told USA Today that they are more prepared than they were last year at this time. "We are in a much more advantageous position COVID education-wise than last year. During this time last year, guidance on social distancing and PPE was in its fledgling stages. There is no 'learning curve' for the public now on best practices."

Local law enforcement says they are prepared, and Okaloosa Sheriff Eric Aden even sent out a letter to colleges and universities saying more patrols will be on hand, and a zero-tolerance policy for unruly behavior will be enforced. And despite warnings from the CDC, Florida has lifted mask mandates and eased restrictions, which is making some officials very nervous about a resurgence of the deadly virus.

 

 

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