On Monday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor proposed a city wide shelter-in-place order. The county emergency group shut it down. According to the Tampa Bay Times, after midnight on Wednesday, Castor is expected to move forward with the proposal with or without their support.
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill issued a different order claiming no portion of the county be shut down until all of Hillsborough agrees.
Now city and county governments must decide who has the greater authority.
Merrill’s order specifically states the following:
“Pursuant to the discussions which took place at the Emergency Policy Group meeting of March 23, 2020 the vote by the Group to not institute a Stay-at-Home Order at this time, and in order to ensure unity of action throughout the county, I am confirming that decision by directing that no Stay-at-Home order shall be applicable in any portion of Hillsborough County until further direction by the Emergency Policy Group, unless as may be necessary under my delegated authority.”
Castor claims her order is simple and permits a lot of movement and doesn’t restrict essential tasks.
The Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group, has the final say. They moved up their scheduled meeting to Wednesday. Castor belongs to the group and left the previous meeting unsupported in her decision to enact shelter-in-place.
City Attorney Gina Grimes said that state law gives the mayor authority to implement the policy in Tampa. “We’re going to move forward on our own,” Grimes said.
Castor’s order would be valid for 7 days and is renewable. Violations are a second degree misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 60 days imprisonment and/or a $500 fine.
The ordinance allows for much of life to continue as normal.
Residents could still do many activities, including:
- Exercise outdoors
- Walk pets
- Go to grocery stores
- Take care of family members
- Visit doctors and veterinarians
- Maintain personal property
Vacationing residents could return home. Upcoming vacations are canceled. Visits to family or friends are restricted unless there’s an urgent need.
Many businesses could remain open including:
- Restaurants (for pickup or delivery only)
- Liquor stores
- Pet stores
- Convenience stores
- Daycares (to accommodate children of essential workers)
- Auto repair stores
- Hardware stores
- Pool supply stores
- Legal and accounting firms
- Ride sharing services
- Other businesses that pertain to basic needs
Employees who don’t work in an essential service business should miss work or work from home.
City Council members haven’t met in public since Castor issued a declaration of emergency powers on March 12. They support Castor but feel her ordinance won’t be as effective without countywide or statewide compliance.
“I think it’s important that this be a regional compact. We need to have all hands on deck for something like that,” City Council member Luis Viera said Tuesday.
Many council members feel waiting could be a deadly mistake and hope nearby counties and cities will follow suit.
The Pinellas County Commission May propose a shelter-in-place order Thursday.
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