No plans to close Pinellas beaches for July 4th weekend, county leaders say

Pinellas County

MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – Beaches in Miami and Fort Lauderdale are closing for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. After hearing about those closures, many have wondered if Tampa Bay area beaches will follow suit – specifically in Pinellas County.

Firework shows are already canceled at most beachfront locations throughout Pinellas County.

County Administrator Barry Butron told 8 On Your Side they’ve had a few concerned residents reach out wondering about the beaches. But as of Monday, they have no plans to shut down beaches for the Fourth of July weekend.

“Just picking on the beaches is not the answer,” Burton said. “If we want to get control of this then we would have to put a safer-at-home order in place and have everyone go home…I don’t think that’s realistic. People are out and about and I don’t think that would be something the public is going to accept. We have to then figure out what are reasonable measures to take. More importantly how to get people to take responsibility here.”

If they close the beach, the county administrator said it would have a spiraling economic impact. Instead, he’s stressing the importance of personal responsibility.

Burton said no matter where you are this weekend – the beach, a restaurant or a Fourth of July party – speak up about coronavirus safety.

“Make sure you’re telling each other to put on the mask and social distance. Because ultimately it could be your friend that you’re helping keep from getting this,” he said.

He said don’t be afraid to ask strangers at the beach to move away if they get too close.

Cynthia Vanicky said she had no problem doing just that when she was at the beach at John’s Pass on Monday.

“It got too crowded. I felt very uncomfortable so I even asked them, ‘can you move back some? Because distance yourself,'” said Vanicky.

Stephanie Clear grew up in Seminole. She said, to her, it’s crystal clear that the beaches being open on the July Fourth weekend isn’t a good idea.

“I don’t trust people to obey the 6 feet apart rule,” said Clear. “They also probably won’t be wearing masks because of the heat. I think they should shut it down just for the safety of not spreading it more than what is already going to happen.”

Not everyone agrees with Clear.

“I think the beaches should stay open,” said Steve Hunt, who is visiting from Ohio. “We got the breeze, wind blowing, everyone keeping their distance. I don’t see a thing wrong with people coming to the beach for the Fourth of July. It’s ridiculous. We’ve got to do something, let us come to the beach.”

Once again, as of Monday, Pinellas County leaders said they have no plans to shut down beaches for the July Fourth weekend. Burton said the topic may come up at a Pinellas County Commission meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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