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Pinellas County Sheriff warns boaters to follow COVID-19 guidelines to avoid shutdown

Sheriff: "It was a disaster out there."
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Posted at 11:39 AM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 17:50:00-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Don’t ruin it for everybody. It’s the message officials in Pinellas County are sending to people who are going out on the water.

The message came out of the Pinellas County Board of County Commission meeting Thursday. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s message Friday hasn’t changed. Gualtieri is concerned about boaters not following the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) guidelines from last week, ordering all vessels on the water to be at least 50 feet apart with no more than 10 people on a boat.

“Saturday was pretty ugly out there to tell you the truth,” said Gualtieri.

Sheriff Gualtieri said people who got on the water last Saturday might not have been aware of the changes, and on Sunday, it was much better.

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Gualtieri showed chopper video of different areas in Pinellas County from the weekend through the week, highlighting the differences made after enforcement. One problem area, in particular, was the beach along Gandy Boulevard.

“It was a disaster out there,” said Gualtieri. “There were beer cans out there, and people were partying. They were not adhering to any of this, and it was just a mess out there.”

Sheriff Gualtieri said he went out to Gandy on Sunday to shut it down, and it will stay shut down. Now, three deputies will remain in that area to monitor it every day.

“I personally told some people to move, a father out there with his two kids, ’Sorry, but everybody else ruined it for you,'" said Gualtieri.

The Sheriff’s Office says the sheriff continues to be concerned about boaters not following the rules because if boating behaviors do not improve, the County Commissioners may feel the need to close public boat ramps in an effort to reduce the number of boaters.

COMPLETE COVERAGE OF CORONAVIRUS

Commissioners noted during the meeting that closures were not something they want to do. The commission hopes people will adhere to what’s being asked this weekend so they don’t have to consider that as an option.

“Help us help you, but if you don’t and you force us, we’re going to take action,” said the Sheriff.