Hillsborough, Pinellas ordered to stay home. Will others follow suit?


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As of 10 p.m. Friday, Hillsborough County’s “safer at home” order officially went into effect.

Pinellas County’s similar order has been in place since Thursday morning. Both orders are similar in the sense that they are not lockdowns: you can go places like the grocery store and the bank to keep your life in order. You’re also welcome to go outside for a walk and exercise, as long as you’re practically social distancing.

Both counties have stated enforcement for these orders will focus on education, not punishment, and neither county included a curfew with its order.

The question now is: will surrounding counties follow suit?

All ten greater Tampa Bay area counties (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Sarasota, Manatee, Highlands, and Hardee) have declared local states of emergency in response to the coronavirus. Only Hillsborough and Pinellas have pulled the trigger on “safer at home” orders (also known as stay at home or shelter in place.)

Lakeland city commissioners will consider implementing one next week, with the mayor pushing for restrictions at both at the city and county level. However, as of right now Polk County leaders are not considering any such thing.

“I believe the economic fallout is going to be far worse than the virus itself,” Polk County commission chairman Bill Braswell told 8 On Your Side Friday.

Like Polk, Pasco leaders are also not considering any stay at home measures at this point in time. Both counties attribute geography to putting them less at risk, as long as people practice good social distancing precautions.

“Pasco does not have the high-density areas or multi-generational housing concerns that are driving stay at home orders in other communities,” Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles said in a county-produced Youtube video this week.

Sarasota County leaders discussed the possibility of implementing a stay at home order or a curfew earlier this week. The county attorney ultimately interpreted that they do not have the authority to declare that at the local level and such measures would have to be executed statewide by Gov. DeSantis.

Highlands County commissioners also weighed the notion of a stay at home order during a recent meeting but decided not to move forward.

For Michael Allen, safer at home is actually “safer at hotel.” The New York City native is staying in Tampa for the foreseeable future, as his home is now the epicenter of the nation’s COVID-19 outbreak.

“I was down here for a three-day business trip and I decided it was the wrong time to go back,” Allen said.

Allen applauds Hillsborough for taking the action to implement a stay at home order.

“Good thing right now, I think,” he said.

But only time will tell if the people of Tampa and Hillsborough stay at home…or if things mostly stay the same.

“I’ve pretty much been abiding by it already, so it shouldn’t change much for me, personally,” Tampa resident Theresa Mignone said.

“Once it’s set in stone and we have to abide by set precautions, absolutely I will fall in line,” Tampa resident Deandre Blackwell added.


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