The two largest counties in the Tampa Bay area will institute “safer at home” orders this week.
In a meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group unanimously agreed to ask county attorneys to draft an order. They will have a final vote on in a meeting Thursday at 1:30 p.m. If passed — as expected — it will go into effect Friday at 10:00 p.m. and include a 24-hour curfew on weekends and a 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew on weekdays.
Earlier Wednesday, during an emergency meeting the Pinellas County Commission unanimously approved a “safer at home directive” that goes into effect at noon Thursday. It requires businesses to either practice strict CDC social distancing guidelines or to close down. Residents must limit travel outside their homes in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. The order does not apply to essential trips like getting medicine, groceries or working at a list of essential jobs.
The director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County, Dr. Ulyee Choe, updated commissioners on the number of positive coronavirus infections in the county.
“As of yesterday we had 45 cases and if you look back just a week ago we only had four. That does continue to grow.
“We, unfortunately, did have one death that was reported yesterday, a 67-year-old gentleman. It’s on our webpage so please continue to look at the DOH webpage. We update that kind of data daily.
“A little bit about the demographics in Pinellas County of the 45 cases the age range is anywhere from 21 to 83. There has been through this of those 45 cases 14 did require hospitalization at some point.
“As for testing, we continue to test at DOH sites. What we are continuing to do is prioritizing using CDC criteria.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman unsuccessfully appealed to the county commission hoping that the ordinance would be stronger and would close more nonessential businesses.
“… Because they could go to a grocery store, no question, if you say well couldn’t you go to a grocery store, they could, but we’re trying to limit the opportunity for that to happen.
“We’re trying to limit the spread to the best ability we can, keeping only essential businesses open.
“Sheriff [Gualtieri] said one thing that I thought was kind of ironic. He said that they did a lockdown in the jail and they’ve had no cases in the state at all, with a lockdown. So, that’s an extreme they’re able to do in jails. I’m not advocating for that, I’m not advocating for Marshal Law, I’m not advocating for a lockdown, I’m not advocating for a curfew, but it works. And so you take that extra step further, you make a difference.”
Kriseman also called out Governor Ron DeSantis for not issuing a statewide order for people to stay at home.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the county won’t be under martial law, but if needed his deputies will take all enforcement remedies, including fines or criminal charges.
“We have the ability to get people and nudge them to do it the way that we need to do it. We’ve got the personnel, right now we’ve got a lot of personnel. The courts are shut down, the schools are shut down, we’ve got people that we can get out there.
“And what I want to do is to have that conversation we those that are not adhering to the spirit, the intent, and the directors that are in here, but give them the opportunity, themselves, to get it right.
“So you got a choice. Either you fall into a category where it’s not permitted because you don’t fall under one of the essential businesses. Or you can get it right by practicing the required distance in the other social distancing, the best practices that are required.”
Back in Hillsborough County, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan answered questions on Facebook Live.
“We’re relying on people to be good citizens and the enforcement of it is that’s basically what we’re relying on people to do.
“There have been some questions between the Mayor and the County Administrator and that stuff is going to hopefully be ironed out later today.
“But it is the opinion of the city, and myself as chief of police, and the city attorney is that if the Mayor issues a directive that we can enforce it.”
The Police Chief was asked, what if people need to exercise outside?
“As long as they practice social distancing it’s not going to be an issue. They can still go out and go for a jog and everything. You know we’re not going to stop someone who’s out there going for a jog.
“Now we see someone out there for a jog, with a tv on their shoulder that’s going to be suspicious and we are going to stop them. We are not looking at doing an enforcement issue with some of these people but we are asking that people use common sense.
“This is much more serious than what people think. As cops we’re used to dealing with blood and bullets. But this is a virus that we can’t see so it’s really become difficult for our first responders.”
Dugan said several dozen Tampa Police Department officers are being quarantined after potential exposure to coronavirus.
The Florida Department of Health in Pasco County announced the first COVID-19 death in Pasco. It was a 71-year-old Pasco resident who died Tuesday.
As of Wednesday morning, there have been 1,682 total positive coronavirus cases in Florida and 22 deaths. Here’s the county breakdown of COVID-19 positive individuals in the Tampa Bay area: In Hillsborough there are 106, in Pinellas there are 50, 22 in Manatee, 27 in Sarasota, 17 in Pasco and 14 in Polk.
An email from the White House Wednesday said, “President Donald J. Trump Approves Florida Disaster Declaration. Today, President Donald J. Trump declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Florida and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic beginning on January 20, 2020, and continuing.”
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Watch the St. Pete & Tampa “Mayors Unite” video:
Below is more info from Pinellas County about their coronavirus order:
*BCC extends local state of emergency and issues “Safer at Home” order.
*Residents are ordered to follow CDC guidelines, stay home as much as possible save for essential needs.
*Non-essential businesses are ordered to close storefront operations and customer foot traffic unless they are able to comply with CDC guidelines.
*Places of public assembly are ordered to close, including: movie theaters, museums, pool halls, bowling alleys, country clubs and others *County public parks will stay open; however, playgrounds within the parks will be closed.
The spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to pose a significant health risk to our community. As a result, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday extended its local state of emergency declaration another week and adopted a “Safer At Home” Order for individuals, business owners, and any place of public assembly to slow the spread of the virus. The Order is effective starting Thursday, March 26, 2020, at 12 p.m. and will continue so long as there is a declared local state of emergency in Pinellas.
“It’s important for us to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections in Pinellas County while balancing the needs of our community and we are exercising every reasonable power to slow the spread,” said Commission Chair Pat Gerard. “These actions, with the cooperation of our Pinellas residents and businesses, will help us prevent worse scenarios in the future.”
What the order means:
Pinellas residents are ordered to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines of social distancing (6 feet of separation from others and no group gatherings of more than 10), stay home as much as possible and limit non-essential activity. Residents can still leave their homes to meet essential needs such as food, healthcare, laundry and outdoor recreation. Essential activities include:
a.Direct care or support of family members b.Healthcare and medical services c.Pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities d.Groceries e.Meal take-outs from local food establishments (including food banks) f.Essential work duties that cannot be performed from home g.Primary or emergency care or direct care support for a family member or relative h.Banks and related financial institutions i.Laundry services, laundromats j.Essential home repairs and maintenance (lawn care, plumbing, roofing, etc.) k.Outdoor activity while following CDC guidelines (examples include: walking pet, hiking, biking).
l.Veterinarians and pet boarding facilities m.Gas stations, auto-supply and auto-repair facilities
PLACES OF ASSEMBLY
Places that facilitate public assembly, whether indoors or outdoors are ordered to close to the public. This includes, places like public play grounds, publicly accessible children’s play centers, bowling alleys, movies and other theaters, country clubs, social clubs and fraternal organizations.
Any gatherings involving groups of 10 or more will be told to disperse.
County public parks will stay open, however all playgrounds within the park will be closed. For more information about parks visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/default.htm
Non-essential businesses are ordered to close storefront operations and customer foot traffic if they can’t meet CDC guidelines. However, businesses may continue internal and minimum basic operations required to maintain the businesses. Businesses are still required to enforce the CDC social distancing guidelines.
Essential businesses may continue operations following the appropriate guidelines to the maximum extent possible. Essential businesses include the
-First Responders, Police and Fire, Jails and Prisons -Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare operations -Community based organizations providing meals and social services -Human Service operations -Garbage and Sanitation workers
-Transportation: including airports and public transportation such as PSTA -Utilities, Public Works and essential infrastructure -Critical trades: (Plumbers, Electricians, Exterminators, Security personnel,
-Government essential service workers
-Food: (grocery stores, food banks, restaurants: delivery, take-out or curbside delivery) -Banks and financial institutions -Laundromats -Funeral Services -Hotel and lodging -Hardware and supply stores -Post offices and shipping services
Businesses that do not comply with the order will be subject to the appropriate enforcement action up to and including orders to close and criminal charges.
Additional information about the Stay at Home order will be posted regularly on Pinellas County’s COVID-19 resource page: www.pinellascounty.org/covid19.