SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — State leaders are on the path to reopening Florida. Starting Monday, state parks and beaches will be fully reopened in some Tampa Bay counties, alongside partial openings of places to eat and shop.
On Monday, beaches and beach parking lots will open in Pinellas and Sarasota Counties, and beachgoers will once again be able to bring chairs, coolers and umbrellas to camp out on the sand.
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In Sarasota County’s Siesta Key, Kristin Hale spent the day Saturday moving around outdoor chairs and tables at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar. As general manager of the restaurant, which has been closed for the past six weeks, Hale says she is anxious to welcome back customers.
“We are elated. I cannot tell you how ready everybody is to get back to normal,” she said, with a chuckle.
A few blocks down Ocean Boulevard, James Ritter just added tape markings on the ground of his T-shirt shop and plexiglass will soon separate shoppers from his spot behind the register.
“It’s been pretty tough — mentally and financially. But you have to look for the bright side and here we are. We’re now in the first step toward getting back to normal,” Ritter said.
Starting Monday, restaurants and retail stores can open to 25% capacity. Restaurants can also seat customers outside at tables at least 6 feet apart.
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State parks will also reopen on Monday. Elective surgeries will start back up, too.
Yet, there are people squarely on both sides of the reopening Florida debate.
Chris Botti, who was visiting Siesta Key Saturday, says he’s not ready to return to restaurants and stores yet.
“I personally would not feel comfortable. I want to get back to normal, but I know we’re in uncharted waters so we need to experiment and be careful,” he added.
The key to keeping Tampa Bay open will soon be in the hands of all of us as we work to stay safe.
Law enforcement across Tampa Bay will be patrolling the beaches and parks Monday making sure everyone is keeping their distance.