A Florida attorney is making a name for himself as the grim reaper, touring the state’s beaches while dressed as the personification of death to make a statement about the government’s decision to open them amid the coronavirus pandemic and to urge Floridians to stay home.
“It’s premature to allow people to come here from all over the world and cause additional problems with this virus,” Daniel Uhlfelder tells Yahoo Life. “I couldn’t sleep at night if I didn’t do something.”
The second-generation Floridian was born and raised in the Sunshine State, now practicing law in Santa Rosa Beach where he and his wife are raising their children. As a result of growing up around the beach, Uhlfelder says that he understands why people want them open. “I love the beach. That’s the place I go, a place I can get mental clarity just breathing the salt air. It’s part of who I am,” he says.
In fact, he explains that he’s fought for the use of public beaches for the past two years alongside a non-profit organization called Florida Beaches for All. With the unique circumstances of the pandemic and ongoing recommendations to enforce social distancing and stay-at-home orders, however, the attorney believes that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to begin reopening beaches and businesses as of late April is dangerous.
“I don’t think he’s looking at this in terms of what’s best for public health,” Uhlfelder says. “Why’s Disney closed but the beaches are open? Why is that?”
So, he took it upon himself to head to beaches in statement-making garb to both address people who aren’t practicing proper social distancing and to get the attention of policymakers. This is something that he says he started to do when people were expressing frustration in response to Florida beaches remaining open in late March when spring breakers swarmed the sand. As those same beaches are now reopening after a rather temporary closure, he’s back.
“I wore a painters suit, like a hazmat suit for spring break. And then I’m just like, what’s gonna get these people’s attention to take this seriously? It’s not gonna be me wearing my Brooks Brothers suit and tie. They’re not gonna care about that,” he explains. “Maybe I should dress up as the grim reaper and go to the beach, and here we are.”
Uhlfelder goes on to say that the idea “just clicked,” especially since the coronavirus is life-or-death. After visiting a couple of beaches beginning on Friday, he says that he’s witnessed how overcrowded they are and knows that it’s a result of people from out of state.
“It’s not necessarily the act of going to the beach. I clearly believe that exercise and getting outside is good for you. But it’s what draws the masses,” he explains. “Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, Ohio. They’re flooding our area. And so the beaches are jam-packed, I mean they’re jam-packed. …We only have 50,000 people that live in my county. It’s a small county, these are not locals.”
As for the locals, Uhlfelder says that many are suffering as a result of unemployment. “The only way they’re gonna get paid is if the beaches are open. That’s part of our economy,” he explains. “But in a global pandemic, the government and our leaders need to have a system to keep people afloat.” Uhlfelder even claims that many people he spoke with said that they would be OK with closed beaches and complying with social distancing if they were still being paid during this time. “My message is to our leaders,” he says.
While going to his nearby beaches and using his Twitter, where he has more than 130,000 followers and counting, is helping to get his message across, Uhlfelder plans to go to a number of other Florida beaches to incite action. He’s even taken advantage of the attention he’s gained as the grim reaper by making merchandise that people can buy to support what he’s calling his Grim Reaper Tour.
“There’s grim reapers all over the place. I’ve heard of more. They’re popping up all over the country,” he says. “Florida’s got my hands full.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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