Following a 3 hour-long emergency meeting, Manatee County Commissioners have approved a resolution to create a temporary curfew.
The regulation prohibits non-essential travel from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., seven days a week.
Currently, the County's COVID-19 restrictions are only enforceable on public property but officials say group gatherings at private residences continue to pose a public health risk.
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Some county law enforcement and municipal leaders say the additional measure will send a clear message to residents that social distancing orders must be taken seriously.
Doctors from Manatee Memorial Hospital spoke in favor of the curfew at Friday’s emergency meeting, and asked officials to lead by example.
But several commissioners spoke strongly against the measure. “I just think it’s a bad idea,” said District 3 Commissioner Stephen Jonsson. “The government should not be telling people what to do.”
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and municipal police department officers will have the ability to issue citations to anyone not in compliance.
Manatee County Sherriff Rick Wells said his office is not trying to arrest people but that “there is no reason to be outside of your home after 10 pm.”
The curfew was recommended to the board of commissioners by the county’s policy group, which includes the public safety director, county administrator, mayors, police chiefs and the sheriff.
Manatee County Public Safety Director Jake Sauer told commissioners that local hospitals are placing tents in parking lots to accommodate the anticipated surge in patient needs. “Now is the time to make purposeful decisions,” he said. “Through projections put out by the state we will continue to feel the effects of Covid-19. Our models project as of April 8, 21,000 people in the state will test positive for the virus and there will be 300 in Manatee County.”
The curfew begins immediately and must be renewed every 7 days to remain in effect.
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