There will be no curfew in Hillsborough County, after all.
But starting at 10 p.m. Friday, county residents will be asked to "shelter at home" - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The county's Emergency Policy Group voted unanimously Thursday to ask people to stay home to battle the spread of coronavirus.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said the word "curfew" - an idea proposed Wednesday - would be counterproductive.
"I think that the word curfew is doing nothing but causing more panic in an already panic-stricken community," he said during a conference call between members of the policy group.
"I'd like for us to strike the word curfew and have a 24-hour order, making sure that our community understands the exemptions that are applicable. If you have a legitimate purpose to be away from your home, you're fine being away from home."
Businesses that can’t maintain a safe 6-foot distance between people will be asked to close. The order is good for seven days, and the group can vote weekly to keep it in place.
Board member and Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman resisted moves by some members to exclude some businesses considered non-essential from the order.
"If they can't protect their employees, and they can't protect their customers, for all intents and purposes, they need to close," she said. "We can't put a five-alarm fire out by putting out the fire one room at a time. We have to help stop the cross-contamination that is accelerating in our county."
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said.the order is not a shutdown.
"You can go to the grocery, convenience stores or big box stores. Go to the pharmacy to pick up medications, or other health care necessities. Go to a restaurant for take-out, or drive-through. Care or support a friend or family member. Go to a medical appointment, but we would ask you to check with your doctor or provider first. Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog, be in nature for exercise," she said.
"We're just asking you to do that while keeping a 6-foot distance between yourself and others."
Castor also gave some encouraging advice in a Facebook Live post Thursday:
"The days ahead will be difficult," she said. "But the decisions we make and the actions we take today will allow us to emerge from this more quickly, and as a stronger, more united, and kinder community. As always, stay calm, stay kind, stay safe, stay connected, and above all else - stay home."
The policy is similar to a policy enacted by Pinellas County Commissioners to enact a stay-at-home order for a week.
A stay-at-home order means the following:
- All non-essential workers are encouraged to work from home.
- If you can’t work from home, you must be at least 6 feet away from colleagues and customers at all times.
- If you can’t manage distance between colleagues or customers, you’re asked to stay home.
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