Florida residents are more than happy to trade their stay-at-home outfits for their swim gear now that some beaches in the state have reopened. After a month-long lockdown because of the COVID-19 outbreak, many Floridians are getting their dose of sunshine by the seaside.
Daniel Uhlfelder, an attorney from the state, is hitting the beaches, too, but he isn’t there to take a dip; he’s there to protest their reopening, which he believes is premature. And he’s doing so complete with a Grim Reaper costume: a raggedy black robe, a black cloth to cover his face, and a scythe.
The macabre outfit was his way of making people reconsider going to the beach.
“The Grim Reaper represents death. This is a deadly virus. It’s a global pandemic,” he told ABC13.
Uhlfelder is an advocate for public beach access in Florida, even clashing with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, whose Panhandle home was parked on a private beach. This time, however, he thinks allowing anyone on the beach amid a pandemic is a dangerous mistake.
“We aren’t at the point now where we have enough testing, enough data, enough preparation for what’s going to be coming to our state from all over the world from this pandemic,” he told CNN.
Wielding a scythe, Uhlfelder traveled to the beaches around Walton County, Florida, that have reopened ahead of the state’s planned May 4 “Phase 1“ reopening. This initial reopening will allow restaurants and retailers to operate at 25% capacity. Bars, salons, and gyms will remain closed until further announcement.
He said the beaches he visited last Friday were “very crowded”.
“I know how beautiful and attractive our beaches are. But if we don’t take measures to control things, this virus is going to get really, really out of control,” he said.
Aside from urging people to go home, the protest is also an effort to bring in funds for the campaigns of Democratic candidates, Phil Ehr and Christy Smith.
On March 20, the ‘grim reaper’ attorney filed a suit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis explaining that the leader’s unwillingness to issue a statewide mandate closing down beaches put Floridians at risk of being infected with the coronavirus. However, this was dismissed by Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll in April. He said that it’s in the governor’s discretion how he would handle emergencies, according to the state’s constitution.
This isn’t the first time the attorney has pulled a stunt to get people off the beaches during a pandemic. Last month, he traveled to Florida wearing a less grim outfit – a paintball costume – to promote social distancing, according to NBC News.
He said a woman told him that he was “scaring people,” to which he responded, “OK, that’s good.”
“If people are scared, then they’ll leave. I want to go back to normal as soon as possible, too, but opening our beaches too early is not the way to do this,” he reasoned.
There are nearly 35,000 coronavirus cases and 1,314 deaths recorded in the state of Florida, according to Johns Hopkins University.
DeSantis defended the reopening of beaches, citing a study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security about sunlight’s ability to kill the virus.
“The DHS study said that sunlight rapidly killed the virus in aerosols, and it said that outdoor daytime environments are lower risk for transmission of the virus than indoor environments,” he said. “In terms of surfaces, when a virus may be left on a surface DHS study concluded that sunlight kills the virus quickly, and that the virus is less stable overall at higher temperatures and higher humidity.”
There is no written report in existence for this study yet, although the results are being submitted for peer review and publication in scientific journals.
Watch the interview of the attorney in the video below.