Hillsborough approves 'safer-at-home' order; in effect Friday night

Leaders in Hillsborough County have issued an enforceable "safer-at-home" order to encourage people to stay at home and only go out in public for necessary things, like a trip to the grocery store, getting gas, and going to a doctor. However, they opted to ditch the word "curfew" from the language.

The order begins Friday at 10 p.m. and is in place 24 hours a day, seven days a week as part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

While non-essential businesses can remain open, the order allows the county to shut them down if they can't keep people six feet apart. Businesses where employees can't work from home and can't maintain a six-foot distance, like nail salons and barbershops, must close.

Under the 'safer-at-home' order, essential businesses are required to provide employment opportunities to those who lose jobs because of this emergency by working directly with CareerSource and other designated employment and job agencies.

RELATED: First coronavirus death in Hillsborough County

Initially, the county's eight-member Emergency Policy Group was considering a weaker safer-at-home directive, coupled with an evening and weekend curfew. 

According to the county attorney, a directive is merely “strongly encouraged” but not enforceable. An order, though, is enforceable, if needed.

Ultimately, they unanimously decided to issue the safer-at-home order and drop the curfew language to make the guidelines easier to understand.

“This is about messaging,” offered Sheriff Chad Chronister, one of the EPG members. “I think that the word ‘curfew’ is doing nothing but causing more panic in an already panicked community.”

Companies or individuals found to be in violation of the CDC social-distancing guidelines can be penalized by law enforcement, but county and Tampa city leaders said they don't want to have to get to that point. Warnings will be issued, but repeat offenders could face more serious consequences.

What you can do:

-Go to the grocery, convenience or warehouse store
-Commute to and from work if your employer is an essential business or has ensured you can maintain at least 6 feet from your co-workers or customers
-Go to the pharmacy or other medical establishments to pick up medications and other healthcare necessities
-Go to medical appointments (but first, check with your doctor or medical provider)
-Go to a restaurant for take-out or drive-thru
-Care for or support a friend or family member in need
-Take a walk, run, or exercise outside - just remember to practice social distancing -- that means at least 6 feet between you and others in the community
-Walk your pets or take them to the vet
-Take your child where they need to go if it's directed by a custody sharing agreement or order

Essential businesses include:
-Grocery stores
-Restaurant delivery and drive-thrus
-Airlines, taxis and other private transportation providers
-Gas stations
-Veterinarian offices
-Businesses engaged in food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing
-Businesses that provide shelter and social services
-Hardware and gardening stores
-Firearm and ammunition supply stores
-Newspaper, television, radio and other media services
-Businesses that provide food and shelter

Essential services include:
-Fire Rescue
-First responders
-Law enforcement
-Essential federal employees and military personnel
-Personnel employed by an entity identified as one of the sixteen critical infrastructure sectors by the Cyber-Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when pursuing work-related functions, or traveling directly to or from work and their respective residents.
-State and local government employees providing services during this state of emergency
-School district employees providing services during this state of emergency
-Medical and health-related personnel
-Mass transit personnel


Tampa's safer-at-home rules and guidelines

- Hillsborough County COVID-19 information for residents

- Tampa COVID-19 information for residents

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 covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINKFlorida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know

AROUND THE WORLD: CoronavirusNOW.com

Map of known COVID-19 cases:

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map