Destin and Okaloosa County Enact Emergency COVID-19 Measures


    By Lori Leath Smith

    Destin, Okaloosa County and the state of Florida have enacted several emergency measures for the safety and health of locals and visitors during COVID-19.
    At the time of this printing, all beaches within the city limits of Destin and Gulf front in Okaloosa County are closed through April 30, 2020, including Henderson Beach State Park and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Call 850.279.6658 or email for 24-hour access to further information.

    City Hall Lobbies (850.837.4242), the City Hall Annex (850.654.1119) and Public Services Complex are closed to the public, although municipal services provided at these facilities are available via phone and online. Future city council meetings will be livestreamed at regularly scheduled times at

    The Destin Community Center, Morgan Sports Center, Buck Destin Senior Center and Destin Library are currently closed.

    The Community Development Department is providing inspection application and procedures online as well as online virtual inspections at

    Playgrounds and restroom facilities in Okaloosa County are closed through April 30. Boat launches remain open, with the exception of Meigs Park. A number of hiking trails within the parks remain open, including Veterans Park at Baywalk, Don & Susan Stillwell Park and Baker Recreation Area.

    On April 1, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order to curb the rate of infection in his state during the global coronavirus pandemic. The order went into effect at 12:01 am Friday, April 3rd and last for at least 30 days.

    On March 27, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the suspension of any new vacation rentals for a period of 14 days. The governor also called for roadside checkpoints on interstates and main thoroughfares to check for potential COVID-19 cases coming into the state.
    The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) is temporarily accepting no cash for tolls including the Mid-Bay Bridge. Tolls will still be required, but they will be collected via SunPass or toll-by-plate.

    Per the governor, all visitors arriving by plane from the New York Tri-State Area and other hot spots must enter a period of quarantine for 14 days from the time of entry, or for the duration of their stay, whichever is shorter.

    Area bars, nightclubs, gyms and fitness centers closed beginning March 17 for at least 30 days statewide per Gov. DeSantis. Elective surgeries are also postponed.

    All restaurants and food establishments have closed their dining rooms. However, many are offering curbside pickup and delivery services. (See Dining section page 19 for a list.)
    Some local activities and attractions, such as fishing charters, dolphin tours, and water sports rental locations which operate outdoors are open.

    The following changes and closures have been put in place by individual businesses:
    Destin Commons has adjusted hours and is open Monday – Saturday 12 p.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m.-6 p.m.

    The Gulfarium is closed and tentatively plans to reopen April 11. Big Kahunas is temporarily closed. Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone is temporarily closed.

    The Track is temporarily closed and tentatively plans to re-open April 1.

    Designated senior shopping hours are in effect at most stores such as Publix, Target, Walmart, Winn Dixie, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, Dollar General, and Big Lots from 8-9 a.m. or within the first hour of business. Winn Dixie is extending an hour, from 8-9 p.m., for first responders to shop.

    Career Source
    CareerSource Okaloosa Walton’s staff is working virtually to deliver services. Physical locations are currently closed. For immediate assistance with reemployment claims, call 1-800-204-2418 or visit

    Department of Economic Opportunity
    Small businesses are eligible to apply for the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans that offer up to $2 million in economic assistance to help small businesses overcome the temporary loss of revenue resulting from COVID-19.

    Gov. DeSantis has activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, managed by DEO, to provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses experiencing economic injury from COVID-19. The application period is open and runs through May 8, 2020. Interested businesses should visit www.FloridaDisaster.Biz for more information.

    The Business Damage Assessment survey has been activated to assess the impact of COVID-19 on Florida’s local business operations. Take the survey at

    Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office
    Deputies began call-in crime reporting for most low-priority, non-violent and/or misdemeanor crimes that have already occurred – versus in person responses. Calls are being returned by deputies as soon as possible. The OCSO has suspended all elective fingerprinting, with the exception of statutorily mandated fingerprinting such as arrestees and sexual offender registrations. Sheriff Ashley says multiple precautionary practices have been implemented in interacting with the public, ranging from social distancing to wearing masks and gloves to limit exposure.

    Okaloosa County Schools
    Okaloosa County Schools will remain closed through May 1, all school activities and events have been cancelled until further notice, and all statewide testing for the school year has been cancelled. Final guidance on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or AICE testing has not been received yet.

    Education for students resumed from home March 30 consisting of age-appropriate online curriculums and built-in communication for teachers and students. Students will remain connected to the teachers they’ve had all year. All online assignment folders can be found on the Faculty and Staff page of the website and can be accessed with your “One Okaloosa ID.” Call the help desk at 850.897.2966 from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. All documents are located on along with videos.

    At the time of this printing, meals (up to two) per day (breakfast and lunch) are available weekdays from 7:30 a.m. –11:30 a.m. for students under 18 at the following locations:
    Baker School, Laurel Hill School, Northwood Elementary, Riverside Elementary, Davidson Middle, Lewis School, Plew Elementary, Destin Elementary, Wright Elementary, Mary Esther Elementary, Edwins Elementary, Shalimar Elementary, Elliott Point Elementary and Florosa Elementary.

    Per state food service guidelines, the student must be present to pick up meals. Visit for updates and more information.

    Recreational Vessel Update
    Currently, all recreational boats must be at least 50 feet apart. Each recreational vessel must not have more than 10 people on board. Some license renewal deadlines have been extended. Check for updates.

    Okaloosa County Clerk of Courts
    Many services are provided online and available 24/7. Visit

    Number of COVID-19 cases of March 31, 2020:
    – 16 in Walton County (9 residents and 7 non-residents)
    – 36 in Okaloosa County (33 residents and 3 non-residents)
    – 6 in Bay County
    – 5,704 in Florida total
    For the latest numbers, visit

    Destin Life acknowledges this is a fluid situation and information is subject to change.
    At the time of this printing, we’ve provided the most current information. However, please check local and state resources for continued updates. Visit for further information, updates and resources.