PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County's "safer at home" initiative officially took effect Thursday afternoon at noon.
Leaders are now mandating that all residents stay at home except for essential needs, in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The "safer at home" initiative will continue so long as there is a declared local state of emergency in Pinellas County, according to local leaders.
The initiative will enforce that Pinellas residents comply with the CDC guidelines of social distancing, by staying home as much as possible and limiting non-essential activity.
People should only leave their homes to "meet essential needs such as food, healthcare, laundry and outdoor recreation."
Essential activities include:
- Direct care or support of family members
- Healthcare and medical services
- Pharmacies, health care supply stores, and health care facilities
- Meal take-outs from local food establishments (including food banks)
- Essential work duties that cannot be performed from home
- Primary or emergency care or direct care support for a family member or relative
- Banks and related financial institutions
- Laundry services, laundromats
- Essential home repairs and maintenance (lawn care, plumbing, roofing, etc.)
- Outdoor activity while following CDC guidelines (examples include: walking pet, hiking, biking).
- Veterinarians and pet boarding facilities
- Gas stations, auto-supply and auto-repair facilities
Pinellas County Commissioners say the measure will not force golf courses or boat ramps to close, as long as social distancing rules are being followed.
However, playgrounds, bowling alleys, museums and movie theaters are now closed. Pools are also on the list of closed places in Pinellas, which includes apartment pools and public pools.
The order does not force non-essential businesses to close as long as they meet CDC guidelines.
"Businesses that do not comply with the order will be subject to the appropriate enforcement action up to and including orders to close and criminal charges," the county said.
The Pinellas County Sheriff, Bob Gualtieri, says he is equipped to enforce the new rules. He, alongside deputies and Clearwater Police Officers, spent the day posting notices on the doors of businesses, such as retail stores, informing customers that CDC guidelines must be followed for anyone entering the store. Any businesses caught several times breaking the rules could face fines up to $500 and even potential jail time.
Residents could also be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, though Gualtieri says it would only apply to repeat offenders. The emphasis will be on warnings and education.
“There is no mandatory lock down or mandatory stay at home. We’re asking people to stay at home at this juncture. It could go to that if people don’t comply. So there’s no pulling anybody over, because they are out on the street but if you don’t have a necessity or any business being out there, then please voluntarily adhere to this,” said Gualtieri.
To report non-compliant businesses or people seen congregating in large groups, call 727-582-TIPS (8477).
At the state level, Governor Ron DeSantis has not issued a "stay-at-home" order similar to what Pinellas County is doing. Prior to the weekend, Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried urged Gov. DeSantis to issue a statewide stay-at-home order for all Floridians.
Fried said in a press release last Friday that Gov. DeSantis needs to take action as Florida is starting to see "dramatically increasing" number of coronavirus cases. While she understand a statewide stay-at-home order may impact Florida's economy, Commissioner Fried said "it is a decision that will save lives."
→ Agriculture Commissioner to Gov. DeSantis: Florida needs a 'stay-at-home' order amid pandemic
→ California governor orders all residents to stay home to help slow spread of virus
→ Non-essential employees must stay home in New York; gatherings banned
→ Illinois governor orders residents to stay at home amid COVID-19 pandemic
Several other states have issued stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of COVID-19.