Mixed reactions as more Bay Area attractions slowly reopen

Two of Tampa Bay's biggest marine-life attractions reopened Friday, continuing the steady stream of businesses welcoming customers for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced a businesses to temporarily shut down.

The Florida Aquarium and Clearwater Marine Aquarium are both opening back up. Both attractions will have limited attendance, while implementing a number of safety measures to try to ensure social distancing. 

Staff at both places will be wearing face coverings. The Florida Aquarium is also requiring guests to wear masks, while Clearwater Marine Aquarium is recommending it.

"We are opening for all the right reasons as to mental and emotional healing that needs to happen here," said Roger Germann, the president and CEO of the Florida Aquarium. "In order for Tampa Bay and Florida to reopen successfully, masks like the one that I'm wearing not only just need to happen on staff, but science has proven that masks do help and so we are requiring our guests, moving forward, to wear masks as well. And it really is about protecting them, protecting all of our staff, other guests and our animals." 

The Pirate Water Taxi in Tampa is also operating again.

Meanwhile, the Westfield malls in the Tampa Bay region reopened Friday, while several more businesses and restaurants are began welcoming more patrons.

The public still appears split about whether this is the right time to reopen the state.

"I'm excited for it. I'm ready to get back out there and help the economy open back up," said Ryan Roesch of Ruskin. "I just don't want to live in fear that I might catch something, you know what I mean?"

"Honestly some things, I think, are too soon. Like restaurants, I think that's too soon. Beaches, as long as people stay at a safe distance, I guess that's OK because it's in the open air. But close-quarter, I think it's actually too soon," said Scott Kaminsky of Tampa. "If we panic, that'll just make it even worse. If people just take it in stride and just live their life as we know it today and calm down, don't be in such a rush, I think we should be OK." 

The remainder the city of Tampa parks will reopen over the weekend, as will some of the city's public pools, which will operate on a by-appointment-only basis.

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.

LINK: Florida'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