Some Florida beaches reopened this week for the first time in more than a month, with Gov. Ron DeSantis asking people to practice social distancing if they choose to visit the popular locations. But one Florida resident made his feelings about the order obvious. Attorney Daniel W. Uhlfelder dressed up as the Grim Reaper, complete with scythe, and gave a live television interview to WMBB-TV news explaining his outfit.
"I'm a huge proponent of public beaches," Uhlfelder said from inside his all-black outfit. "But I think that the danger of bringing all the people here to our area and spreading the virus, I think it's going to prolong the recovery we have, and I think that we should take better measures. ... It's too soon, and it's not appropriate."
The Grim Reaper is a personification of death, often depicted as dressed all in black, hooded, faceless and carrying a scythe. Uhlfelder spoke to the news station from the reopened Miramar Beach and was planning to visit other nearby beaches to spread his message.
This isn't just a one-off idea for Uhlfelder, who's been committed to the beach issue for some time. In March, the attorney sued DeSantis for not closing down all of the Sunshine State's beaches, but his lawsuit was dismissed. According to WCTV, DeSantis' deputy general counsel, Nicholas Primrose, argued that since Uhlfelder himself wasn't required to actually go to the beaches, he had no standing to file the suit. But Uhlfelder cited the risk of infection and its increase as the virus continues to spread.
Floridians are still banned from bringing towels or chairs to linger on the beaches, and beach hours are limited. The closure of beaches has also been a problem in California, where residents crowded the sands of Orange County last week in protest of Gov. Gavin Newsom's beach closure.
Uhlfelder's beach visit quickly went viral. "You know it's 2020 when you turn the TV on and the Grim Reaper is reporting live from a beach in Florida," wrote one Twitter user.
Uhlfelder also launched a website, The Florida Grim Reaper Tour, and is attempting to raise $20,000 to support Democrats running for Congress. But the complicated issue of when to reopen each state doesn't break clearly down party lines.
DeSantis is a Republican, while California's Newsom is a Democrat, but not all governors who've been slower to reopen their states are Democrats. Ohio's Mike DeWine moved to close his state's bars, schools and restaurants early, and postponed the state's primary election. The London Guardian noted that both Republican and Democratic officials have expressed support for DeWine's early moves, calling him, "arguably the Republican who has earned the most praise for his swift response to the pandemic." Republicans Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts also earned praise from the Guardian.