TAMPA, Fla. - Officials in Hillsborough County discussed a "stay-at-home" order Monday, but decided only to give the idea further study later this week -- a decision that Tampa Mayor Jane Castor warned could cost lives.
Millions of people in the U.S. spent the weekend at home as states ramped up restrictions in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. At least eight states have issued "stay-at-home" orders, and starting Monday, there is a non-essential ban in Broward County, which is a hotspot for the coronavirus in Florida.
Such orders close non-essential businesses. In other states, citizens are allowed to leave the house only for essential trips to places like the grocery store or to seek medical help. They can still walk the dog or go out for a run -- just no gatherings of any kind.
Over the weekend, Mayor Castor warned county residents could be next and suggested everyone should prepare. But Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that he was not prepared to make a statewide order, leaving it to local municipalities.
Hours later, Hillsborough County's Emergency Policy Group met to consider such an order. That group includes some county commissioners, the three mayors from Temple Terrace, Plant City and Tampa, as well as the school board chair and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
Without support from the governor, most of the group was hesitant to implement a local stay-at-home order. Several members suggested a delay in order to further study the economic and logistical impacts; Plant City Mayor Rick Lott asked the group to look at "not just the medical facts."
"The actions that we already spoke of earlier have already had amazing results," Lott said, pointing out that traffic was down and drive-thru lanes were quick because of existing closures and guidance.
But Mayor Castor urged her colleagues not to wait on the governor.
"We don't have the ability to test. We have no idea how many people are walking around with this," she said. "This is the right thing to do. The more we kick this issue down the road, the more people are going to die in our community."
But the motion that ultimately passed was only to further study a stay-at-home motion and a possible 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The group will meet again on Thursday.
"I really don't want to rush it. I'm not kicking the can down the road but it's got to be right," Commissioner Sandy Murman insisted.
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