CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. - Pinellas County is relaxing COVID-19 restrictions on beaches, pools and playgrounds. Leaders voted Thursday to lift the local mandates, but are urging people to continue physical distancing and wearing masks in public.
Pinellas County beaches opened back up to the public on May 4 and over the Memorial Day weekend, Pinellas beaches reached "unprecedented levels of closures."
Since they reopened, obout 300 officers have been patrolling the shores, beach accesses, and parking lots to enforce social distancing.
“Our main role has been kind of, if you will, traffic cops on the beach,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “Because were trying to manage people, and when certain areas were full we would just move people to other areas where there was open sand, and there was an opportunity to distance.”
Gualtieri says no one has been cited or fined for violating those rules. He supported a vote by the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners Thursday to lift the mandate that beach-goers stay six-feet apart, and in groups of less than ten people.
“I’m confident it’s the right time to back us off and let people just handle their own affairs,” Gualtieri said. “And people have demonstrated personal responsibility, they are distancing appropriately.”
Officers are being pulled off the sand and put back on their original assignments.
COVID-19 restrictions have also been rolled back at pools and playgrounds.
Beachergoers maintain social distance on Clearwater Beach after it reopened Monday, May 4.
“We took all those off and have decided to just go with strongly encouraging people to do the right thing,” explained Commissioner Pat Gerard.
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, pools at hotels and motels can operate at maximum capacity. While all other pool operators like apartments and condos can resume full capacity on June 1.
The capacity restrictions on playgrounds at childcare facilities are now lifted, and on June 1, public playgrounds can move to normal operations.
County leaders are encouraging everyone to continue social distancing and wearing face coverings.
“People need to remember that this is a worldwide pandemic, it is a deadly disease for many, many people, and you may catch the disease and not have any symptoms but you may pass it onto people who are very vulnerable,” Gerard said.
Another thing you will no longer see is the beach capacity dashboard. The sheriff tells FOX 13 News during the 9-days the website was up and running, there were about 300,000 visits. The problem is, you need boots on the ground to provide live updates, and the sheriff’s office will not have the officers to keep it running.