BELLEAIR, Fla. — Last Friday, at the Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, golfers strolled down the fairways as they would on a normal golf outing.
It was less than 12 hours after a statewide stay-at-home order went into effect.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis exempted golf courses from businesses required to shut down in his executive order… considering them “essential businesses” like grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies.
The order closed down beaches, parks, tennis courts and other recreational sites.
The idea behind exempted golfers was that it was possible for golfers to maintain “social distancing” as recommended by the Centers for Disease control.
Health officials have recommended people stand 6-to-10 feet apart, to reduce the likelihood of spreading COVID-19.
But the I-Team has uncovered golfers aren’t all observing those social distancing rules.
At the Pelican Golf Club, caddies walked alongside golfers, carrying their bags.
Some appeared to congregate in tee boxes and greens far closer than social distancing recommendations.
We reached out to the Pelican Golf Club about what we observed, but didn’t hear back from them by our deadline.
Oren Miller lives at the Villages in Sumter County, one of the largest retirement communities in America.
“They’re bunching up,” Miller said.
Miller has observed and photographed groups of golfers not practicing social distancing on the course located in his backyard.
“Probably 80 percent of them are abiding by social distancing, 20 percent are not,” he said.
Gov. DeSantis has praised residents of The Villages for their golfing practices during the pandemic.
“What they’re doing is they wipe down the cart. One person sits in the cart. They don’t shake hands with who they’re playing with. They don’t touch the flag stick. So they practice social distancing in every aspect of that,” Gov. DeSantis said, during a COVID-19 press briefing on March 20.
The Villages has 50 golf courses and a median age of 66, making it the oldest community in Florida.
Health officials say seniors are statistically more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, in part, because they are also more likely to have other underlying health issues than younger people.
Oren Miller says he told his regular golfing buddies to count him out on the golf course until the danger has passed.
“I told mine when I quit golfing three weeks ago that I’m doing this for them and for me,” Miller said.
Even though golf courses have put rules in place requiring golfers to walk or ride one-to-a-cart, Miller says he’s worried his friends and others might get sick.
“What goes through my mind is are they taking the virus back to their wives, back to their spouses, back to their significant others. It’s not just them,” he said.
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