TAMPA, Fla. - The mayor of Tampa announced she will issue a stay-at-home order later Wednesday for city residents in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. It will go into effect midnight Thursday.
During a FOX 13 interview, Jane Castor said essential services will still be allowed. That can include volunteering, taking a jog, going to the grocery store, or receiving medical care. As long as residents are practicing social distancing, they are not restricted from movement.
"Whatever it is that you're doing that allows you to have that 6-foot separation, it's going to be allowable," she explained. "If you want to go to the pharmacy at midnight, you can. If you want to go out and walk, you can. All we're trying to do is get that social distancing [and ensure] you have that 6-foot separation. That has been the only step that has shown to flatten the curve."
Castor said there are individuals who are taking social distancing seriously, but many others are not. On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health reported nearly 100 coronavirus cases in Hillsborough County -- making it the county with the fourth-highest number of total cases in the state.
"You may be young and invincible, you may have this virus, be asymptomatic, have no idea that you have it and you're taking it back home to someone in your family who is elderly or somebody who has compromising health issues," the mayor said.
Tuesday, she wanted to issue a stay-at-home order that would go into effect Thursday, but the county administrator issued his own administrative order to block Castor's order.
“No Stay-at-Home order shall be applicable in any portion of Hillsborough County until further direction by the Emergency Policy Group, unless as may be necessary under my delegated authority,” Michael Merrill wrote.
Castor said she cannot supersede what the county does.
"The administrator put out an order yesterday basically blocking my ability to put an enforceable stay-at-home order in place. This is going to be a stay-at-home order but it's going to be a directive. It's not going to be legally enforceable," she explained. "In other words, police aren't going to arrest individuals who are in violation of this."
Businesses that allow customers and employees to social distance can also remain open, Castor had previously noted. She also said trash pick-up and other city services will still happen.
"Anybody who can work at home is doing so," Castor said. "We are asking our citizens to stay at home for us, so we can be there for you."
The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss a countywide curfew. The group is comprised of some county commissioners, the three mayors from Temple Terrace, Plant City and Tampa, as well as the school board chair and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
On Monday, the group met and considered a stay-at-home order for the entire county. Castor tried to convince the group to issue the order, but was overruled. Members said they were concerned about the practical and economic impacts, and decided to postpone the decision.
Castor has been in talks with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman in regards to a stay-at-home order between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Both agree a stay-at-home order should be issued.
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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