Pinellas County passes ‘safer at home’ order amid coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted Wednesday to enact a ‘stay at home order’ for businesses and residents countywide — but it doesn’t ‘force’ any businesses to close, and includes many exceptions, leading some in the county to complain it doesn’t go far enough.

The order, which goes into effect Thursday at 12 p.m., was voted on during an emergency meeting Wednesday.

County Administrator Barry Burton suggested the order will give the county the authority to shut down non-essential businesses that are open and not practicing proper social distancing.

RELATED: Coronavirus in Florida: Are you an essential employee?

“This resolution tries to find a balance between safety and economic impact,” Burton said. “If you are not an essential business, you need to close … If you can employ social distancing practices in your business, then you can remain open.”

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said right now, not everyone is complying, and this resolution helps the people and businesses who are complying avoid being shut down due to a few bad apples.

“It’s not being done right,” Gualtieri said. “It’s not being taken seriously. I don’t want to see these businesses shut down.”

Pinellas County residents are ordered to comply with the CDC guidelines of social distancing, stay at 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:

  • Direct care or support of family members
  • Healthcare and medical services
  • Going to pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities
  • Getting groceries
  • Getting take-out from local food establishments (including food banks)
  • Essential work duties that cannot be performed from home
  • Primary or emergency care or direct care support for a family member or relative
  • Going to banks and related financial institutions
  • Doing laundry services or visiting laundromats
  • Essential home repairs and maintenance (lawn care, plumbing, roofing, etc.)
  • Outdoor activity while following CDC guidelines (examples include: walking pet, hiking, biking).
  • Visting veterinarians and pet boarding facilities
  • Going to gas stations, auto-supply and auto-repair facilities

Non-essential businesses are ordered to close storefront operations and customer’s foot traffic “if they…cannot maintain CDC social distancing guidelines.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said that doesn’t go far enough to flatten the curve and reduce the danger of coronavirus spreading.

“It does not close any businesses because every business in the county can make a claim that they are following CDC guidelines.”

Essential businesses may continue operations following the appropriate guidelines to the maximum extent possible. If you are unsure if you are an essential employee click here.

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.

County attorney Jewel White said “bad actors” who fail to comply are committing a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.

Mayor Kriseman also took to social media to voice his displeasure with Gov. DeSantis’ action to the coronavirus

I urge Governor Ron DeSantis to pay attention to the science. A county not yet having a confirmed case is no excuse to not have a statewide ‘stay at home’ order. In fact, it is the very reason an order is necessary. The goal should be preventing the virus from infecting all of Florida.

St. Petersburg Mayor RIck Kriseman

As of Wednesday, the Florida Dept. of Health has reported 45 positive cases of COVID-19 in Pinellas County.


WHAT TO KNOW:

  • Florida reporting 5,704 cases and 71 deaths
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis holding off on issuing ‘stay at home’ order
  • Pinellas and Hillsborough counties implementing ‘safer-at-home’ orders
  • Travelers from NY tri-state area and New Orleans coming to Florida must quarantine for 14 days under new executive order
  • Florida schools closed through at least May 1

There was much debate on compliance and how the order would be enforced. To view the full resolution click here

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri earned praise from every county board member when he suggested all retail businesses in Pinellas County that remain open during the ‘safer at home’ order must display a county-issued notice at their entrance that displays CDC and Pinellas County guidelines.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri earned praise from every county board member when he suggested all retail businesses in Pinellas County that remain open during the ‘safer at home’ order must display a county-issued notice at their entrance that displays CDC and Pinellas County guidelines.

Stay tuned to WFLA.com as this story develops.

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