ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - There is one basic message that Pinellas County commissioners are trying to convey to its residents: You're safer at home right now than you are out in the community -- where you can be spreading the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, commissioners unanimously passed its "safer-at-home" resolution, urging all in Pinellas County to practice social distancing. The same goes for businesses that remain open. The resolution went into effect Thursday.
Unless you're heading to an essential business, like grocery stores, banks, gas stations and doctor's offices -- something absolutely necessary -- county officials are asking residents to stay at home for now.
The order is not a mandatory lockdown or mandatory stay-at-home, explained Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Businesses, like nail salons, barbershops and hair salons are the concern, he said, adding that he has seen people in line at grocery stores -- which is considered as an essential business -- who are not practicing social distancing.
In Pinellas, essential businesses can operate as usual and employees can still go to work. However, the county asks that non-essential businesses have their employees work from home, but, stipulates that if they can't, they must adhere to the strict CDC guidelines and keep employees, vendors and customers at least six feet apart.
"If they don’t take it seriously and don't adhere, then it could get worse, and the county commission could very well, and rightfully so, shut everything down," explained Sheriff Gualtieri."We don’t want it to get to that point, but we're prepared to do that if we have to."
Unde the order, all community pools must close, such as those at apartment complexes and hotels. The only pools that are exempt are single, family home pools.
The sheriff said 200 law enforcement officials in the county will provide 14,000 notices for businesses to post on their doors explaining the resolution for residents.
According to the language within the resolution, restaurants can still provide carryout meals and golf courses can still remain open -- as long as people are social distancing.
"We need your help. We need your cooperation," Sheriff Gualtieri explained. "Anybody who thinks, 'This isn't going to happen to me, and, 'I'm not going to abide by this', that's not true. Do the right thing."
He said he supported the resolution, and also supports the governor's choice against issuing a statewide stay-at-home order.
"There are still a whole bunch Florida counties that have no reported cases. Broward County is not Bradford County. Miami-Dade is not Madison County," the sheriff said. "I think, like all of us, he's struggling with what's the right thing to do. I think it's fine the way it is. With the number of cases we have statewide, thank goodness this isn't New York."
The majority of residents and businesses owners who spoke at the commission meeting Wednesday supported the resolution, and didn't agree with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who said the safer-at-home order wasn't tough enough.
According to Kriseman, "non-essential businesses" should close.
"This safer-at-home policy does not close any business, because every business in the county can make a claim that they will maintain CDC guidelines," Kriseman said. "As many officers as the sheriff has … as I have, there are not enough to make sure they are following CDC guidelines."
"Safer-at-home" will last at least a week, but could be extended at the end of that 7-day period. Commissioners will meet again next week to re-evaluate.
Pinellas residents are ordered to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines of social distancing (6 feet of separation from others and no group gatherings of more than 10), stay home as much as possible and limit non-essential activity. Residents can still leave their homes to meet essential needs such as food, healthcare, laundry and outdoor recreation. Essential activities include:
a .Direct care or support of family members
b. Healthcare and medical services
c. Pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities
e. Meal take-outs from local food establishments (including food banks)
f. Essential work duties that cannot be performed from home
g. Primary or emergency care or direct care support for a family member or relative
h. Banks and related financial institutions
i. Laundry services, laundromats
j. Essential home repairs and maintenance (lawn care, plumbing, roofing, etc.)
k. Outdoor activity while following CDC guidelines (examples include: walking pet, hiking, biking).
l. Veterinarians and pet boarding facilities
m. Gas stations, auto-supply and auto-repair facilities
PLACES OF ASSEMBLY
Places that facilitate public assembly, whether indoors or outdoors are ordered to close to the public. This includes places like public playgrounds, publicly accessible children's play centers, bowling alleys, movies and other theaters, country clubs, social clubs and fraternal organizations. Any gatherings involving groups of 10 or more will be told to disperse.
County public parks will stay open, however, all playgrounds within the park will be closed. For more information about parks visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/default.htm.
Non-essential businesses are ordered to close storefront operations and customer foot traffic if they can't meet CDC guidelines. However, businesses may continue internal and minimum basic operations required to maintain the businesses. Businesses are still required to enforce the CDC social distancing guidelines.
Essential businesses may continue operations following the appropriate guidelines to the maximum extent possible. Examples of essential businesses include the following:
-First Responders, Police and Fire, Jails and Prisons
-Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare operations
-Community-based organizations providing meals and social services
-Human Service operations
-Garbage and Sanitation workers
-Transportation: including airports and public transportation such as PSTA
-Utilities, Public Works and essential infrastructure
-Critical trades: (Plumbers, Electricians, Exterminators, Security personnel, etc.)
-Government essential service workers
-Food: (grocery stores, food banks, restaurants: delivery, take-out or curbside delivery)
-Banks and financial institutions
-Hotel and lodging
-Hardware and supply stores
-Post offices and shipping services
Businesses that do not comply with the order will be subject to the appropriate enforcement action up to and including orders to close and criminal charges.
Additional information about the Safer at Home order will be posted regularly on Pinellas County's COVID-19 resource page: www.pinellascounty.org/covid19.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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