Residents defy 'safer at home' orders, fill parks in St. Pete, Tampa

The weather was gorgeous across the Bay Area this weekend, making enforcement of "safer at home" orders difficult to enforce. 

Officials in St. Petersburg said they saw residents traveling far to congregate in large groups at area parks, but they have a warning: If you want to go outside, it’s safer to do so in your own neighborhood.

Last week was about education, but this week, they say, will be different.

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"We had some folks this weekend who decided to climb over the fences, decided to use the playgrounds, we just cannot have that,” said Mike Jefferis, the director of St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation.

Last week, both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties issued “safer at home" orders. Jefferis said everyone has to resist the temptation to venture outside of their immediate neighborhoods.

“We would ask that if you want to go out and exercise, stretch your legs and maybe clear your mind, that you do that in your neighborhood,” he said. “Or that you go to your neighborhood park, versus traveling to west St. Pete, all the way down here to the waterfront.”

The same goes for Tampa. Before the safer at home order was issued last week, video surfaced showing a crowded Bayshore Boulevard. Fitness zones along that roadway are now closed to the public and have been blocked off. Tampa’s Parks and Recreation director, Paul Dial says residents are following orders.

“Overall, people have been very responsive and we’ve had very few concerns,” he said.

On both sides of the bridges, parks and rec staff have been repurposed.

“We’ve taken those staff members and they’re out here in their blue and white shirts. We’re educating, we’re communicating, we’re making sure people are following the distances,” Jefferis said.

He added that the sooner everyone stays home, the faster we can get back to normal.

“And the faster we can get back to using the parks the way we want them to be used, and the way this community demands that they’re used,” Dial said.

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 Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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