In mid-March, as crowds flocked to beaches in Florida’s St. Johns County, a local medical examiner repeatedly sounded the alarm about the coronavirus threat, pleading with officials to close beaches and “protect the residents,” The Washington Post reports. Deanna A. Oleske, associate medical examiner for St. Johns County, warned officials in several emails that her office was “in a dire situation” due to a lack of equipment and staff to handle a surge in coronavirus patients, according to the Post. “We are facing NUMEROUS issues that are inhibiting us to appropriately staff this office in an expeditious manner BEFORE facing a pandemic of unknown proportions,” Oleske wrote in one email.
St. Johns, which had over 200 cases of the coronavirus as of Saturday, closed beaches on March 29 only to partially reopen them two weeks later. The county was set to fully reopen beaches on Monday.
Previously, residents also urged officials to shutter beaches in emails. “People are continuing to pour in,” read one email in mid-March. “WAKE UP! DO SOMETHING!!!”