Manatee County commissioners vote to enact nightly curfew

With a statewide stay-at-home order in effect, Manatee County is going a step further and enacting a curfew in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Law enforcement in the county says, despite the orders and weeks of warnings about social distancing, they're still having issues with large group gatherings, especially at night.

On Friday, commissioners voted to enact a curfew from 11 p.m. at night until 5 a.m. every morning.

It would prohibit non-essential travel, which means being out at night for any reason that is not for food, medicine, essential supplies or employment.

The majority of the complaints are coming from gatherings at private event halls and vacation rentals. Leaders say a curfew would send a clear message to county residents that social distancing must be taken seriously.

The sheriff said Friday the curfew will not be an excuse for deputies to pull people over, but gatherings like block parties are now out of the question.

Sheriff Rick Wells said he looks at this as an educational opportunity. His deputies will ask people to move inside and to still keep a safe distance between people.

The nightly curfew takes effect on April 3 at 11 p.m.