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How police are preparing for crowds at Duval County beaches for Fourth of July weekend

Road barricades on 1st St. will be utilized on July 4. Officers will assist residents and guests across 1st St. to their homes.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — **Scroll down for major road closures and changes.

Duval County beaches are usually packed with people every year for the Fourth of July -- but this holiday weekend, Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham hopes not having a fireworks show keeps the crowds at a manageable size.

“First Street is usually really crowded," Latham said. "If we close the beaches, it would be doubly crowded, because people would still be congregating on First Street."

It's one of the reasons Latham said mayors of the three beach municipalities decided to keep the beaches open, but also because the Fourth of July is the biggest day for businesses at the beach.

“We have a responsibility not just to the citizens, but also to the businesses," he said. "Because a lot of these family-owned businesses and local businesses were shut down for three months and they’re just trying to crawl out of the abyss now.” 

Atlantic Beach Interim Police Chief Victor Gualillo said his department is ready and preparing for this weekend -- like any holiday weekend -- with extra patrols.

“Officers understand they need to wear masks if they are inside and in close environments," Gualillo said. "We’re going to hope all of the residents and visitors at the beach are mindful of social distancing and the mask wear requirement. We’re going to encourage people as much as possible to abide by those guidelines.“ 

Gualillo said they won’t necessarily be enforcing masks on the beaches, but indoors and in areas where social distancing is not possible.

If things get out of hand Friday, Latham said they can always change their minds about keeping the beaches open for the Fourth of July.

“We can always shut the beach down if we need to, but it’s ridiculous for us to do it early just because we're anticipating there’s going to be a problem," he said.

Although, Mayor Latham said he doesn’t expect any problems.

He said COVID-19 hot spots popped in Jacksonville Beach in response to the bars opening -- long after the beaches had already opened in Phase 1.

- Road barricades on 1st St. will be utilized on July 4th. Officers will assist residents and guests across 1st St. to their homes
- No parking on 1st St. from July 3 - 5
-  Local traffic only on 1st St. from Cherry St. - North St. July 3 - 5
-  All-vehicle traffic prohibited on 1st St. from Florida Blvd. - Seagate Ave. on July 4
- Strand St. residents south of Florida Blvd. are encouraged to use Florida Blvd. to access Strand Street
- Traffic restriction time periods are subject to change based on crowd concentration and/or bicycle traffic

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