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Pinellas commissioners face big decision on beaches, pools

Margie Manning

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Treasure Island's beach (Photo credit: Pinellas County Flickr)

Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton has suggested reopening public beaches, swimming pools and some playgrounds, as part of the county’s next step in the addressing the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In a memo offering options for the Board of County Commissioners to consider, Burton said he is waiting on guidance from the state before making a recommendation on businesses reopening.

The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday, and by then, Burton said he hopes Gov. Ron DeSantis makes a decision on whether he will extend the statewide stay at home order beyond its April 30 expiration date. The statewide order, which took effect April 3, restricted Floridians movement to essential services and essential activities, in an effort to control the spread of the virus. Following that order, Pinellas commissioners approved their own resolution, closing non-essential business in the county.

Pinellas commissioners had closed the beaches in mid-March.

“The purpose of the implemented County measures was not to eradicate the virus because that is not possible. Rather, the measures were implemented to slow the increased number of cases through social distancing so there is less opportunity to spread the virus,” Burton wrote in his April 24 memo. “To continue to combat the spread of Covid-19 in Pinellas County, it is recommended that restrictions are gradually lifted to ensure the progress that has been made to this point is not diminished. The next phase is not a return to normality, it is learning how to live with the pandemic while mitigating the impact on our community.”

He outlined three key points for the first step in reopening:

• Public beaches and public beach parking facilities could reopen, possibly with limited hours and activities restricted to exercise only, as well as observance of social distancing guidelines. He suggested a two-day lead time for reopening, to give municipalities time to allocate staff and resources to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed.

• Swimming pools in hotels, motels, lodging establishment, condominiums, commercial businesses and homeowners associations could reopen at 50 percent of maximum capacity. This measure also would need a two-day lead time, to make sure owners and operators could had the staff and resources in place to ensure proper sanitation protocols and social distancing.

• Playgrounds and equipment at child care facilities could be used once they are cleaned and sanitized. Public playgrounds would remain closed.

Burton said the options in his memo represent an analysis of the best available data, municipal and other stakeholder feedback, demand on resources, and public health considerations from local health agencies.

Click here to see the full memo.

Burton included a data report that said the number of new cases reported continued to increase in Pinellas County, but at a slower pace than earlier in April. As of 10 a.m. Saturday, Pinellas County had 677 confirmed cases and 24 deaths.

The data report also said hospitals in the county had the capacity to treat all current Covid-19 patients.

Feedback from 11 municipalities and a half-dozen chambers of commerce was mixed, with a handful saying they wanted to wait to reopen beaches. Several of the towns and chambers also suggested protocols for reopening restaurants and other businesses.

At the Tuesday meeting, commissioners also will be asked to finalize details on a program that would give cash assistance to small businesses in the county as well as individuals who have been hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The program, funded by money appropriated to the county under federal CARES Act, would be limited to low-income Pinellas County residents and would provide funding to pay for overdue utility bills and overdue rent or mortgage to avoid eviction or foreclosure. It also would provide grants for some small businesses such as restaurants, bars, short-term lodging establishments and vacation rental management companies, non-essential businesses and places of public and private assembly.

 

 

 

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Les Kasper

    April 25, 2020at12:24 pm

    Private pools and recreation houses should be allowed to open. Subject to distancing and number of persons at a time. Public beaches for relaxation subject to distancing and number of attendees.

  2. Avatar

    Rick Hunter

    April 25, 2020at2:15 pm

    As a property owner on Clearwater Beach I have a 180 degree view of the Gulf and the beach every day. The people of our area are doing an incredible job of separating and following the law. Give them some credit that they can use the beach appropriately. I would suggest allowing property owners to use the beach and restaurants for a week at first to see how it goes. I mean chairs, umbrellas and exercise. Then if all goes well open it up to our wo derful visitors that help feed our county and our workers that are being hit the hardest. Sort of a “soft” opening.

  3. Avatar

    Jill Weishaupt

    April 25, 2020at3:20 pm

    I tried to reply to the new link to governor….experiencing problems, what a surprise.

    As a resident of a 55+ condo, by closing the pool you have TAKEN AWAY the only form exercise that many of us have. Most residents have gone north, but those of us left, WE NEED THE POOL for exercise.
    Think about it………open the pools

  4. Avatar

    LJ Milo

    April 25, 2020at4:04 pm

    Studies are showing that sunlight helps to kill viruses and boost the immune system. All outdoor facilities including beaches should be open. No one is forced to go. People who still feel unsafe can still stay home. Limiting the hours doesn’t make sense social distancing wise. It’s only common sense that the fewer hours something is open, the more people will be there at a time. If they are only open for six hours, you will have lots of people crowding in during those six hours rather than naturally coming and going at various times throughout the day at their convenience.

    • Avatar

      K Austin

      April 25, 2020at5:52 pm

      Beautifully said! Sunlight, fresh air, and exercise promote health. The beach, with social distancing, is one of the best places to go. And restricting hours does not make sense, as this simply crowds more people into the same space instead of spreading out throughout the day.

  5. Avatar

    Denis Gaston

    April 25, 2020at4:29 pm

    Why, can’t the experts see on their own what a terrible idea it is to re-open Florida for business as usual. Nothing usual about it and more people will die.

  6. Avatar

    Diana Sabella

    April 25, 2020at4:53 pm

    Very potentially dangerous move so soon. Listen to the medical experts on this. Not tourism! THANK YOU

  7. Avatar

    Ron Hollis

    April 25, 2020at5:01 pm

    The shut down and flatten the curve was NOT ABOUT REDUCING the spread…it was about managing HOSPITAL UTILIZATION…you guys forget your baseline narrative….it’s a virus..it spreads…folks get it..folks get sick…we didn’t want them all in the hospital at once…that did NOT happen (not even close)…open up.

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