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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke April 21, 2020

Yes, this really is a photo of Jacksonville Beach during the pandemic

If Your Time is short

  • An image of people on Jacksonville Beach was taken on April 17, 2020.
     
  • Different cameras and different angles make people appear differently on the beach.
 

On April 17, with the blessing of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the mayor of Jacksonville announced that beaches would reopen in Duval County, where Jacksonville is the county seat.

As Floridians returned to the coastline, and local and national reporters published photos of people on the sandy shore, an unflattering hashtag started to trend on Twitter: #FloridaMorons.

Elsewhere on social media, some took offense and claimed outlets were using an old photo that made it look like more people were descending on Jacksonville Beach than there actually were.

"I live in Florida & just to clarify," began one Facebook post showing two beach photos. "The first picture is what was circulated as the ‘hundreds of people crowding the beach’ when Jacksonville Beach reopened from 5 pm to 8 pm on Friday. However, the picture shows the pier that no longer exists, as shown after the last couple of hurricane seasons. Half of the pier is now gone. The second picture is what the beach actually looked like Friday evening."

"Once again the media is giving the public fake news," said another post making the same case with the same photos. "They are lying again." 

These posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

The photo in question was taken on April 17. The caption of the photo, which we found on the Getty Images website, says: "People crowded the beaches in its first open hour on April 17, 2020 in Jacksonville Beach, Fl."

Vic Micolucci, a reporter for WJXT, a local TV station in Jacksonville, tried to explain on Facebook on April 19 how that photo could look so different from some of the other images from the beach in which people look like they are, in fact, practicing social distancing. He posted eight photos: The one from Getty, a still from a WJXT video on the beach and a still from a WJXT video from a helicopter, photos from the Panasonic video camera that was used for WJXT’s live coverage — including an image of Micolucci standing on the beach with the pier in the background — and iPhone photos.

The Jacksonville Beach pier was damaged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. According to the Florida Times-Union, the last 300 feet of the 1,300-foot structure were destroyed. The pier closed to visitors last year and is being rebuilt to withstand future storms, according to Weather.com

"The moral of the story is different cameras, different lenses and different angles make the beach look differently," Micolucci said. "If you take the miles of beaches up and down Duval County, there were indeed thousands of people. However, most kept their distance. And there was a lot of sand. … A helicopter shot looks different from a drone shot which looks different from a telephoto shot which looks different from a smartphone shot. The optics are different. The angles are different. As your car mirrors say, objects may appear further than they are. Use your best judgment."

On April 20, Micolucci posted on Twitter a few photos he took that evening from the spot on Jacksonville Beach where the Getty Images photo was taken. 

"I took first 2 photos with my iPhone: one zoomed in, one wide," Micolucci wrote on Twitter. The third shot is from our ENG camera. Same location for all. Different perspectives."

David Rosenblum, the photographer that shot the image in question, told us he was surprised people were claiming the pier in his photo looked the same as it did before it was battered by the hurricane. 

"Biggest giveaway would be the original had three bench/huts and a ‘T’ on the end," he said. "Both are gone. Only 2 benches/huts remain."

We rate claims that the crowded Jacksonville Beach photos aren’t from during the pandemic False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, April 19, 2020

Facebook post, April 19, 2020

Facebook post, April 19, 2020

Tweet, April 17, 2020

The Washington Post, #Florida Morons trends after people flock to reopened Florida beaches, April 18, 2020

Tampa Bay Times, #FloridaMorons trending on Twitter. Here’s why, April 18, 2020

Getty Images, Coronavirus in Jacksonville Beach, April 17, 2020

Vic Micolucci Facebook post, April 19, 2020

Vic Micolucci tweet, April 20, 2020

The Associated Press, A popular Florida fishing pier closing for hurricane repairs, Aug. 5, 2019

Weather.com, Popular Jacksonville Beach Pier destroyed by Hurricane Matthew being rebuilt to withstand stronger storms, Aug. 9, 2019

Florida Times-Union, Popular Jacksonville Beach Pier Destroyed by Hurricane Matthew Being Rebuilt to Withstand Stronger Storms, Aug. 2, 2019

Forbes, Photos: Florida governor opens beaches, crowds appear immediately, April 18, 2020

Email interview with David Rosenblum, photographer, April 21, 2020

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Yes, this really is a photo of Jacksonville Beach during the pandemic

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