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Manatee County Lifts Temporary Nighttime Curfew

Apr 21, 2020

After almost two-and-a-half weeks, Manatee County Commisioners have lifted a temporary local curfew.

The board first voted to enact the measure on April 3. It was in effect every night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

A similar curfew was established in Hillsborough County on April 13-- but it only lasted three days before commissioners rescinded that order.

During public comment, two Manatee County residents chided commissioners for enacting the curfew in the first place, calling it an infringement on their rights. Meanwhile, two Manatee County medical professionals urged commissioners to maintain the restriction, saying it helped protect the community. 

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

During the virtual meeting, Commissioner Carol Whitmore-- who is a registered nurse-- voted to keep the nighttime curfew in place.

"We haven't reached a plateau yet in Manatee County and I just can't release the curfew,” she said. “It looks like it’s going to pass but as a health care provider for 40 years, I’m not going to go there."

But with a statewide stay-at-home order still in effect, Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said the local order was redundant.

"It's in the governor's order,” she said. “We're not supposed to be out anyway. The sheriff's not going to enforce it. So it serves no purpose in the world as we know it, in the world today."

The motion passed by a split vote of 4-3.

Commissioners Priscilla Trace, Stephen Jonsson, Vanessa Baugh and chair Besty Benac voted in favor of rescinding the curfew. Misty Servia, Reggie Bellamy and Carol Whitmore voted against.

Commissioners also voted unanimously to approve spending up to $100,000 for additional coronavirus testing kits and personal protective equipment for first responders.

Statewide, 278,888 Floridians -- about 1% of the population -- have been tested for the virus, according to the Department of Health. In Manatee County, only about one half of 1% of the local population of about 400,000 has been tested.

According to the state, 437 people in Manatee County have tested positive for COVID-19. Thirty-four people have died.

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