Invisible lines in sand cause confusion as Pinellas County beachgoers persist despite coronavirus orders

Pinellas County

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – Thousands of Pinellas County residents remain under a safer-at-home order, so how can some people still be on the beach? Who is in charge of enforcing the order along the 30-plus miles of sand in Pinellas County? 8 On Your Side is breaking down the answers.

There are a lot of invisible lines drawn in the sand right now causing confusion. Some hotels have private beaches, some don’t. All public dry sand on the beach is patrolled by the county, but once you hit the wet sand and water, that’s the state’s jurisdiction.

Indian Rocks Beach is closed but some people are still there.

“I’m visiting and unfortunately can’t go in the water so I come here and take a look at the beach and it’s been very busy,” said Calvin Diggs. “Just in the last couple of hours, I’ve seen six to 12 surfers out there enjoying the surf.”

Here’s a breakdown of who patrols what:

The county deputies or city police patrol the dry sand.

The state is in charge of all public lands and water, including the wet sand and the water.

Florida’s governor announced a formal statewide stay-at-home order on Wednesday. 8 On Your Side called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to see if that changes people allowed in the water or on the wet sand but have not yet heard back.

We spoke with some spring breakers staying in a beach house who have seen deputies patrolling.

“We’ve seen many deputies,” Jack Bruns from Chicago said. “We’ve seen them almost every one or two minutes. It’s crazy!”

Even without being able to enjoy the beach, the boys said quarantine in Florida is still better than up north.

“The weather – it’s Florida,” exclaimed Bruns and his two friends, Brandon Eltz and Jon Lieser. “You don’t get this [weather] in Chicago!”

We reached out to the Pinellas County Sherrif’s Office for comment but we’re told there’s nothing new the sheriff hasn’t said before. They said deputies are continuing to patrol but noted at some point, people need to take personal responsibility.

However, if you see concerning activity pertaining to COVID-19, you can always call the Pinellas County Sheriff Tipline at (727) 582-TIPS (8477).

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