TAMPA (WFLA) —As Florida begins to reopen its economy, Pinellas County leaders are taking things a step further.
After Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the first full phase of reopening the economy last week, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and County Administrator Barry Burton released their own guidance for Phase One on Monday, loosening some restrictions.
The plan deviates from the governor’s guidelines by opening venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys. DeSantis specifically said Friday he would be keeping movie theaters shut during the first phase, even though recommendations from his Reopen Florida Task Force would have allowed them to open.
But Gualtieri and Burton say venues like movie theaters, concert halls, auditoriums, bowling alleys, arcades, playhouses and casinos will be allowed to reopen in full Phase One with strict cleaning and disinfecting required.
“We’re reading the order and the order says we’re in a full Phase One. Nothing within the order restricted movie theaters. It didn’t restrict bowling alleys either,” Burton said in a live stream on Monday. “All we can do is interpret the order and apply the order.”
Large spectator sporting events will also be allowed with up to 25 percent of capacity. The governor mentioned sports in his executive order on Friday, saying professional sports may operate and venues can host training, competitions, events and games. His order did not give details on spectators. However, guidelines from his Reopen Florida Task Force say he could have allowed 25 percent of occupancy.
Burton and Gualtieri made several references to the 32-page list of recommendations from the task force during Monday’s Facebook live stream. Some of the recommendations made by the task force were adopted by Gov. DeSantis for the full Phase One executive order. But DeSantis, who has stressed the importance of taking baby steps, pushed some of the recommendations off until Phase Two.
On par with the governor’s order, Pinellas County says restaurants and other food establishments can now operate at 50 percent of seating capacity. That does not include employees. Outdoor seating will be unrestricted but seating will not be allowed at bar counters where alcohol is served.
Stores, museums, libraries, gyms and fitness centers will also be allowed to operate at 50 percent of their capacity.
Businesses like nail salons, barbershops, hair salons, cosmetology salons, tattoo services, massage services and other one-on-one services will be allowed to reopen, county officials said. Employees will have to wear masks and they will be allowed to operate by appointment only with 15 minutes in between appointments. No group appointments will be allowed.
A spokesperson for Mayor Kriseman released the following statement to 8 On Your Side:
“As Mayor Kriseman stated earlier, he does not intend to restrict the governor’s ‘Full Phase One’ here in St. Pete. The City of St. Petersburg, like Pinellas County, will follow the governor’s order as written. We are hopeful that Governor DeSantis will begin to align his public remarks with his written orders and that he puts public health at the forefront of every decision.”
DeSantis had previously announced he would allow nail salons, barbershops and hair salons to reopen but did not say anything about tattoo parlors or massage services.
Vacation rentals can now request to open, the Pinellas County guidance notes. County officials say they are currently seeking authorization from the state to permit vacation rentals.
All businesses must adhere to social distancing requirements.
Some Tampa businesses that have recently opened are dealing with the new changes including new questions from customers.
“Do we have to wear a mask? Do we have to make an appointment to come in? How long are we able to be on the equipment? What protocols are we doing? As far as cleaning the equipment and doing the hour clean,” GM of Amped Fitness St. Petersbrug Sarah Valdes said.
We have reached out to the governor’s office and have yet to hear back.
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