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Tampa, Hillsborough County leaders look to issue safer at home order, curfew

Posted: 3:19 PM, Mar 24, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-25 19:25:54-04
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa and Hillsborough County leaders are hashing out details for a "safer at home" policy and curfew.

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.

"Everyone has the utmost concern about what’s happening in the county we want to protect every soul in the county from this pandemic, this virus," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller.

Leaders said the orders would still allow people the freedom to move, provided they follow social distancing guidelines.

"We are all in unchartered waters here with this Covid19 it is spreading very very swiftly as we all know individuals can be walking around with the virus and have no idea therefore transmitting to other individuals that are in close contact with them," said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

Here is what we know so far on the expected order:

  • People could still go to the grocery stores, pharmacies or gas stations.
  • People are still allowed to exercise or go running outside.
  • Restaurants can still have carry-out and delivery options for their customers.
  • Essential services are based off of the Department of Homeland Security's essential critical infrastructure workforce list

"We are asking everyone to stay at home work from home if at any way possible. If that is not possible and you provide an essential service, as long as you can stay 6 feet away from other individuals then you can perform that service," Castor said.

Leaders say there are a lot of exceptions that could be included.

"We can all think of businesses where it’s impossible for the person doing the work to keep 6 feet away from the customer. Those just can no longer that service can no longer be provided. If someone cannot telecommute if they’re not an essential business they can’t telecommute but they must work for some reason, again they have to maintain all of the mitigation, physical distancing and so forth," said Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill.

Castor said she has been on the phone with the mayors of Orlando and St. Petersburg, and that she consulted with officials in San Francisco, who enacted their own version of a stay at home order.

"They’re not confident they were able to completely flatten the curve they believe that that is a major factor in the flattening of the curve and not having as many cases as they anticipated," she previously said.

Officials said a curfew would also still allow exceptions and for people to go out to get essentials.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hillsborough County not issuing 'stay-at-home' order yet, revisiting subject on Thursday

The development comes a day after Hillsborough County leaders opted out of issuing a stay-at-home order on a county level and agreed to discuss a curfew. Mayor Castor had said over the weekend that she was planning on issuing a city-wide order if Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn't issue one at a state level and believed a stay at home order would be less restrictive than a curfew.

Gov. DeSantis doubled down on his stance during a press conference on Monday saying that shutting down the entire state would be "unadvisable."

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.

CORONAVIRUS CLOSINGS & CANCELLATIONS IN THE TAMPA BAY AREA

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."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

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

Last week, California, Illinois and New York issued their versions of the stay-at-home ordinance.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Hillsborough County administrator, who is authorized to carry out the directives from the EPG during a state of emergency, issued a new administrative order confirming no stay at home order has been directed. It stated:

"Pursuant to the discussions which took place at the Emergency Policy Group meeting of March 23, 2020 the vote by the Group to not institute a Stay-at-Home Order at this time, and in order to ensure unity of action throughout the county, I am confirming that decision by directing that no Stay-at-Home order shall be applicable in any portion of Hillsborough County
until further direction by the Emergency Policy Group, unless as may be necessary under my delegated authority."

The mayor's office stated in response “The Mayor will continue to take the steps necessary to protect the residents of Tampa.”

"I don’t really see any point in looking backwards when we have so much to deal with in front of us I am just glad that the emergency policy group has tentatively agreed to this. Now nothing has been etched in stone," Castor said.

The EPG is set to vote during Thursday's meeting.