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Pinellas businesses receive ‘social distancing’ mandate to display as ‘safer in place’ order goes into effect

If businesses don’t comply, they could be shut down.

Pinellas Sheriff’s deputies are delivering thousands of notices to businesses Thursday the county’s “safer at home” resolution goes into effect.

The flyer, which businesses must display in doors or windows, warns both patrons and employees to maintain social distancing guidelines handed down from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The flier lists three mandates:

“Persons shall not congregate in groups, and groups of more than 10 are prohibited.”

“All persons not part of the same family unit must remain at least six feet apart.”

“Persons in line must adhere to these requirements.”

The flier also includes penalties.

“Violation of these requirements is a crime punishable by incarceration and/or a fine. Businesses in violation may be subject to closure.”

Violations can be reported at 727-582-TIPS (8477), the flier informs.

Pinellas County Commissioners unanimously approved the resolution Wednesday. It’s a soft stay-at-home-style order that encourages individuals to stay home as often as possible.

But it allows residents and visitors to roam about freely for things like shopping for supplies or exercising as long as they are maintaining social distancing standards.

It also allows businesses, even non-essential ones, to remain open as long as they to follow the CDC guidelines.

Even though the vote was unanimous, some commissioners expressed concern that the resolution didn’t go far enough. They agreed to mandate the fliers at businesses to ensure compliance.

And Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri assured commissioners during Wednesday’s meeting that his agency would be enforcing the resolution, noting that he was not “messing around.”

Pinellas County Attorney Jewel White also assured concerned officials that the resolution was legally binding and that individuals not in compliance could face fines or imprisonments and businesses could be shut down.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman lamented the order Wednesday afternoon, but said he’d hold off on implementing a more strict order in his city. Instead, he said he and staff would be monitoring businesses over the weekend to ensure compliance and that if businesses weren’t following the rules he would consider implementing his own order shutting down any non-essential businesses in the city.

Hillsborough County, meanwhile, is expected to implement an order similar to Pinellas County beginning at 10 p.m. Friday.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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