CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Pinellas County commissioners voted unanimously on Friday to extend the local state of emergency and rescind the safer at home order. During the commissioner meeting, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri also released details about his plans to reopen the beaches Monday.
The sheriff said beaches will be closed until Monday morning at 7. He doesn’t want anyone to try to get on them sooner.
“It’s status quo this weekend,” said Sheriff Gualtieri.
When the beaches do reopen, groups will be limited to no more than 10 people and will need to stay six feet away from other groups of people. If people come together, they can stay together in a group but cannot join larger groups.
The sheriff said his office will have more than 250 deputies present from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day from Tarpon Springs down to Fort Desoto. They will be there for the foreseeable future in addition to the deputies ordinarily assigned to those areas.
Gualtieri said there are 213 beach access points and they will all be monitored by a uniformed deputy. As people arrive on the beach, they will be reminded of the requirements. Deputies will be assigned to watch for compliance on the sand.
There will be additional foot patrol on the beaches, Gualtieri added, and an additional 30 or more deputies on ATVs patrolling the beaches. In addition to land patrol, law enforcement is going to have nine marine unit boats on the water to patrol the intercoastal waterways and the Gulf of Mexico with special attention to Clearwater pass and Johns Pass.
The sheriff went on to say they will have regular helicopter patrols to help gauge beach density and compliance. The sheriff said he plans to share an unedited helicopter video with the media so everyone can see what the beaches look like.
Gualtieri said 36 Clearwater Police officers will cover Clearwater Beach proper near Pier 60. Deputies will be ready to assist if need be. The Treasure Island and Indian Shores police departments will also provide officers to assist in their cities.
Sheriff Gualtieri said one example is on the Dunedin Causeway. There will be nine deputies patrolling the area at all times.
He said he has some indication that Honeymoon Island State Park may reopen within a week. If so, they will have additional deputies ready to patrol that area.
Gualtieri said they will also help control some busy traffic lights and parking lots to help ensure orderly traffic flow. They will ensure there isn’t improper parking in neighborhoods.
According to the sheriff, there will be more than 1,000 signs posted to remind of the social distancing requirements. About 100 of the signs are very large – about 4 x 8 feet.
Finally, Gualtieri said anyone not following the rules will be asked to leave the beach.
“We’re going to have an unprecedented number of law enforcement officers to make sure everyone is safe, healthy and has a great time on the Pinellas beaches as we reopen the beaches and businesses within the beach community,” he said.
Sheriff Gualtieri said this process will run at least 10 days into the following weekend, which is Mother’s Day weekend.