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Hillsborough County Covid-19 plan calls on businesses to help the county

Margie Manning

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The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group wants local businesses to take an active role in helping battle the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus.

A working document approved by the group during a teleconference Wednesday afternoon calls on businesses that produce and provide essentials such as food, medicine and medical equipment supplies to prioritize those goods for the use of Hillsborough County, according to County Administrator Mike Merrill. It also says local businesses that have the ability to do so shall alter their production and manufacturing in order to provide products to meet the needs of the county for critical testing, protective gear and treatments, Merrill said.

The measure also institutes a “safer at home” approach, urging residents to stay home unless they need to go out for essentials or to exercise as long as they stay a safe distance from other people. It follows Department of Homeland Security guidelines in defining essential services, Merrill said. Businesses that cannot ensure a physical distance between customers and employees must close. Those essential businesses that stay open are asked to work directly with CareerSource and other agencies to provide employment opportunities for laid-off workers in the county, Merrill said.

The measure also includes a curfew on weekdays from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Friday and on the weekend, from 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

The Hillsborough group will meet again Thursday to take a final vote. If they approve the measure it would take place at 10 p.m. Friday, March 27.

If approved, Hillsborough County would be the second county in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area to put a “safer at home” directive in place. Pinellas County approved its own resolution Wednesday morning and it will be effective mid-day Thursday.

Time is of the essence, said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. Castor said Hillsborough County is currently No. 3 in Florida for positive Covid-19 cases. Hillsborough had 106 confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. About 30 Tampa police officers are currently in quarantine, Castor said.

“We have got to act quickly and to take every step we can to protect our citizens and hopefully flatten this curve,” Castor said.

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