Stay-at-home in Tampa: Mayor Castor looking to issue city-wide order as coronavirus concerns grow

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Mayor Jane Castor has decided to move forward with a city-wide stay-at-home-order in Tampa.

The mayor says she will likely issue the order Wednesday morning, adding that it could go into effect at midnight. The order, once enacted, will be in effect 24 hours a day.

“But here’s the deal, it allows movement. It allows personal freedom,” the mayor said. “If you want to go out for a run, you can do that. If you need to go to a doctor’s appointment, you can do that.”

The mayor’s move comes after Hillsborough County leaders voted against implementing a county-wide shelter-in-place order on Monday. They instead elected to further study a stay-at-home order and possible curfews for county residents.

During that meeting, Mayor Castor voted to issue the shelter-in-place order in the county.

“We were all elected to do the right thing, to stand up and do the right thing, and this is the right thing to do,” Castor said. “The more we kick this issue down the road, the more people are going to die in our community.”

So what all does a stay-at-home order entail?

Castor did not reveal the language of her order Tuesday but in a press conference was adament it was primarily be self-regulated. A spokesperson for her office later added to 8 On Your Side that Tampa “will not be a police state.”

Tampa attorney Scott McLaren has a number of clients out of state who have already been clamoring to him for guidance about stay-at-home orders in their home states and cities. He says don’t panic: it doesn’t mean a total lockdown.

Essential services stay open during a stay-at-home order. However, some may have to adjust their hours of operation and how many employees are there to ensure social distancing.

The fate of other businesses will depend on the language in Mayor Castor’s order.

“You’re going to be able to go out, get exercise, you’re allowed to go to the grocery store,” McLaren explained. “You’re allowed to do the things you need to maintain your household.”

Of course, all of this is contingent upon if Castor can issue the order at all.

Also Tuesday, county administrator Mike Merrill issued his own order directing that no stay-at-home orders in Hillsborough County can stand unless approved by the county’s emergency policy group and authorized by him.

Castor, a policy group member, tried but failed to convince the majority on Monday to support a stay-at-home measure. The EPG will meet Wednesday and is expected to upon again take up the issue of stay-at-home orders and potential curfews.

Another Tampa lawyer, David Singer, explains that under his interpretation both the city and county are acting with proper legal authority, despite the conflict.

“They’re both right in this situation, and that’s a very unique situation,” he said.

Singer explained that Hillsborough County ordinance gives Merrill and the EPG clear authority during an emergency. However, when Governor Ron DeSantis declared a statewide emergency, he also put power in the hands of local leaders (like Mayor Castor) to do whatever it takes to protect health and welfare

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