Despite warnings, mass closures, Pinellas County beaches remain open

While beaches in other parts of Florida shut down to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus, Pinellas County has decided to keep its beaches open and urge social distancing.

Thousands of people hit the sand in Pinellas County for spring break this week, despite growing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

While COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state, county leaders said Tuesday beaches will stay open.

“The hotel owners and those who operate all these properties have asked us not the shut down the beaches because it affects, like, livelihood, and it affects their businesses, and for a whole host of other reasons,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Pinellas County leaders also announced that, effective at 12 p.m. Wednesday, all restaurants serving alcohol will stop sales at 10 p.m. and only offer food by delivery.

The local executive order expands on the statewide rules, which say establishments that primarily serve alcohol - bars and nightclubs - are to close for 30 days.

RELATED: Florida closing bars, nightclubs for 30 days; issues sweeping changes for restaurants, beaches

Despite the sweeping guidelines and mandated precautions, in Pinellas County, spring break is still on. Spreading out is the main goal now, so county officials are urging people to follow them for everyone’s health and safety.

“Individuals accessing our public beaches shall also follow CDC guidelines by limiting their group gatherings of no more than 10 persons and by keeping the social distancing of 6 feet in separation,” said Barry Burton, the Pinellas County administrator.

RELATED: Beachgoers draw circles in the sand, use pool noodles to create social distance

Sheriff Gualtieri said deputies are not looking to enforce social distancing guidelines, but they will if people don’t follow them.

The county administrator said they will continue to monitor the situation.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

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