TAMPA, Fl.— City and county officials are considering enacting a ‘safer at home’ order and curfew that could kick in this week amid the spread of Coronavirus, throughout Tampa and all of Hillsborough County.
Wednesday, the Emergency Policy Group directed the county administrator to work with attorneys along guidelines they agreed on, to bring back Thursday for a formal vote. A safer at home policy would be in place 24/7. A curfew would be in place 10 p.m.-5 a.m. during the week and throughout the entire weekend.
Leaders described it as an effort to encourage people to stay home and work from home if they can, and said it was about saving lives.
"One of the issues that is most concerning about it is the ease with which it is transmitted so that’s why we are looking at the emergency policy group to have a safer at home order issued," said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.
Leaders emphasized the policies would still allow people the freedom to move about, so long as they follow social distancing protocols of staying at least 6 ft. apart, and would include exemptions.
What businesses can stay open?
Officials have said they are looking at the Department of Homeland Security’s essential critical infrastructure workforce list, which includes 16 different categories.
"As far as what types of businesses can stay open the simplest way to look at it is any business where you can have that social distance would be okay to operate. Restaurants were closed down because everyone was in close proximity," Castor said describing her idea Tuesday.
For example, officials said the list could include transportation needs, workers making repairs or veterinarians.
"There’s a very very long list if you look at the homeland security guidance. So those companies are important to our economy and they will be held responsible. The managers and CEO's of those essential companies will be held responsible to be sure that first of all, anybody who works for them that can telecommute must telecommute. If that’s not possible those that have to work on site must have the protections that they need to stay safe. That will be enforced with fines and penalties. We take this very seriously," said Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill.
The directives may state essential businesses would provide employment opportunities to those who lose jobs because of the emergency by working with CareerSource and other designated job agencies.
Local businesses the produce and provide essential necessities would be directed to prioritize goods for the county, under the proposed draft language.
"We know what the situation looks like the scarcities of protection equipment the scarcities of medical equipment the scarcities we don’t want to see happen here we have a number of very innovative very strong companies in this community we’re asking them to help us start focusing our energy here before we start focusing elsewhere," said Merrill.
Merrill said if a business is not essential, they must be able to telecommute and if they can't telcommute but must work, must be able to maintain physical distancing.
Can I still run my errands?
Under the policy, people could still go out to get essential things like groceries, medication or gas.
Can I still go outside?
Under the plan, you can still go on a walk, a bike ride, a run, recreate and exercise outside as long as you maintain social distancing.
How long does it last?
The Emergency Policy Group is considering it taking effect Friday at 10 p.m. The curfew would run Monday to Friday, 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and throughout the entire weekend. The safer at home policy would be 24/7.
How will it be enforced?
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said they will rely on people to be good citizens, though they would have the ability to enforce a directive while addressing any such policy in the city.
“Not looking to do an enforcement issue with some of these people but are asking people use common sense this is much more serious than people think," Chief Dugan said on a Facebook live video.
Dugan said dozens of officers are quarantined, with about 15 in the line of duty of exposure.
"But the curfew adds that extra component to it of in the eventuality it needs to be enforced we can enforce it but initially it will be education it will be forbearance but we have that serious hammer behind it," said Merrill.
What if I live outside Tampa and travel into the city for work?
Dugan said essential employees can come in for work, but they don't plan on stopping cars and doing road checks.
The Emergency Policy Group meets Thursday at 1:30 p.m. They will also consider whether to extend the emergency declaration.