Coronavirus: Hillsborough County approves safer-at-home order, removes curfew from language

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – UPDATE MARCH 26 2:20 P.M.: The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group have approved a 24-hour “safer-at-home” order.

The order will go in effect on Friday at 10 p.m.

Officials also removed the idea of a curfew from the order itself.

Commissioner Kimberly Overman introduced an amendment to eliminate the overnight and weekend curfew and just keep the resolution as “safer-at-home,” similar to what Pinellas County passed. It was seconded by Mayor Jane Castor, followed by a unanimous vote on the amendment. 

Temple Terrace Vice Mayor Andy Ross and Chairman Les Miller voiced some displeasure with the amendment but ultimately voted for it. 

Sheriff Chad Chronister was opposed to the “curfew” language, comparing it to our perception of lockdowns in movies and TV shows. 

The compromise was to change the “safer-at-home” language from a directive to an order.

Below is the difference between a directive and an order:

  • DIRECTIVE: strongly encouraged rules, not enforceable by law enforcement  (softer)
  • ORDER: enforceable by county officers/deputies if people do not voluntarily comply  (harder)

ORIGINAL STORY: After a stand-off between the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County leaders, the two entities voted unanimously to enact safer at home and curfew orders countywide.

The language of the orders have not been finalized, as an official vote is expected to come Thursday at 1:30 p.m. It is expected to pass.

The orders, when in place, are scheduled to go in effect Friday at 10 p.m.

Based on a draft by Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, a “safer at home” order would mean the following for businesses:

If you are a non-essential business:

  • Work from home
  • If that is not possible you may continue to work if a. workers can reasonably maintain six feet of distance and b. there are no more than ten workers at a time
  • If the nature of the service does not allow a. six feet social distance and b. ten or fewer employees at a time, then you can not operate. This can be punishable by penalties and fines

If you are an essential business:

‘Stay at home’ and ‘curfew’ orders in Hillsborough County explained:

What the curfew means:

All non-essential travel (travel that’s not for food, medicine, essential supplies, employment) would be banned 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Friday and the entire weekend.

Leaders were adamant Wednesday that their focus is education and encouragement as opposed to enforcement of the curfew. Police will not be throwing people in jail over the curfew.

“In the eventuality, it needs to be enforced, we can enforce it,” Merrill said. “But initially it will be education.”

The language in the directive can change by the time the Emergency Policy Group votes Thursday afternoon.

The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group is made up of three county commissioners, the mayors of Plant City, Tampa, and Temple Terrace, the sheriff, and chairman of the school board.

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