CLEARWATER, Fla. — Pinellas County leaders are scrambling to make sense of the governor’s “safer-at-home” order. County commissioners today voted unanimously to close down all non-essential businesses to abide by the governor’s executive order. The order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.
The county's decision to close down the non-essential businesses comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis made a change to his statewide "safer-at-home" order.
Gov. DeSantis' order, signed Wednesday, supersedes any local order, including what services are deemed essential. The announcement comes after a Tampa-area church caught national attention after the pastor of The River at Tampa Bay church held a large service despite Hillsborough County's social distancing order being in place.
The problem is Pinellas County Commissioners don't yet know what exactly is considered essential under the state order.
"But it just feels like they want to say 'Well, I never shut any businesses down,' said Commissioner Charlie Justice. "It's semantics and it's language and we're in a too serious of a time for people to be playing a game with language and that's what's so frustrating."
Based on their current interpretation of the state order, Pinellas County commissioners passed its own order to close down all non-essential businesses. There's no wiggle room or concessions like curbside pickup.
However, there is some gray area into which business will ultimately be considered essential. For example, it’s known that golf courses are considered essential. So too are pawn shops because they provide loans.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and the county administrator are working to get more answers from the Governor’s office and to create a list of which businesses must shut down.
Sheriff Gualtieri says examples of the types of businesses he knows will not be considered essential are beauty supply stores, clothing stores, lighting stores, bookstores, car washes, jewelry stores, museums and many others.
Likewise, Floridians are asked to stay home unless they are working at an essential business or doing an essential task like grocery shopping.