PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – With the number of large gatherings and events that take place in Pinellas County each year, county leaders felt they needed to be a bit more COVID-19 conscious, and give event planners a bit more direction.
County Administrator Barry Burton explains, the goal is to continue to allow the events to take place, but with safety guidelines in place.
“We had the epiphany celebration up in Tarpon Springs where you were potentially going to have about 15,000 people downtown,” said Burton. “With the risk to people of community spread, by having large gatherings, we put in a minimum data set to say if you’re going to have an event, you’ve got to do it safely.”
The county came up with a new emergency order governing large gatherings. Under the new order, organizers for large, outdoor community events of 1,000 or more attendees will be required to create a safety plan that outlines steps to protect patrons from COVID-19.
Each plan will describe how the event organizers will meet criteria such as face-covering requirements (mandatory for all event staff and attendees); caps on attendee numbers to maintain social distancing at all times; safe access to and from the event, including screening of staff and individuals for any COVID-19 symptoms; signage and communication to participants about the safety requirements; and sanitation and disinfection requirements.
Sonny Flynn learned about the new order today, the day before the John’s Pass Arts Weekend will be taking place. She’s spent weeks planning the event and already had safety plans in place. She says dozens of vendors will attend and have been looking forward to this event.
“These vendors, these 91 vendors haven’t worked in 10 months because events all over Florida have been closed down,” said Flynn. “So it’s really important, and they’re so grateful, and they want to be here and are looking forward to it.”
In addition to planning the event, Flynn is also a merchant at John’s Pass and appreciates the county’s direction.
“As organizers, we do need some more guidance. What can we do? What can’t we do? What can we expect,” Flynn said.
Burton says the idea is to allow these large events to take place, but in a manner that will ensure safety for all who attend.
“We pride ourselves on having so many opportunities for people to interact, gather, everything from big race cars to seafood festivals to all kinds of community gatherings and normally we celebrate it, promote it and celebrate it,” said Burton. “But we’re not out of this pandemic.”