Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and County Administrator Barry Burton answered questions Monday morning about the state and county stay-at-home orders in place during a Facebook live meeting open to questions from the general public.
Questions ranged from rules about boating to whether or not restaurants could sell bottles of liquor with to-go orders.
Gualtieri, who chuckled at the question about booze, said he’s sure restaurants can provide to-go cocktails, but he’s not sure about the whole bottle. He recommended checking with the Florida Department of Professional Business Regulation.
An updated order allows restaurant patrons to purchase cocktails in sealed drink containers for their takeout orders or bottles of beer and wine but did not specifically address full bottles of liquor.
On boating, Gualtieri reminded that the activity is allowed under both the state order issued last week by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the updated Pinellas County order that followed carving out recreational activities as essential.
Boat ramps and marinas remain open for boaters, but restrictions are in place including having no more than 10 people on an individual vessel and maintaining social distancing standards of six-feet of distance between people outside of a single family unit.
Sandbars in the county are now closed, however.
Gualtieri said his deputies would be enforcing social distancing guidelines on shuttered sandbars, but that innocent activities like a mom building a sand castle with her child are not on their radar. Rather, law enforcement is watching for less safe activities like keg parties.
“Everybody needs to stay home. At the end of the day it’s only those essential services and activities that you can leave home for,” Gualtieri qualified, noting it’s important for residents to be able to still enjoy some activities, but doing so safely.
Asked whether deputies would be pulling motorists over or otherwise stopping individuals to inquire about their intended destination or activity, Gualtieri said that would not be happening.
“We don’t do that in the United States of America,” Gualtieri said. “We’re looking for the individual businesses and we’re looking for compliance.”
Gualtieri said this is not a nation that “checks papers.”
Gualtieri’s office has also suspended eviction orders, per DeSantis’ order shutting them down for 45-days. But he defended his previous reluctance to do so, arguing such decisions were out of his control.
“This is really a matter for the courts,” he explained.
Gualtieri said prior to DeSantis’ order, some judges were already placing stays on eviction orders due to the ongoing economic challenges facing residents in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but others continued to issue them, which meant it was his office’s duty to comply and enforce those orders.
That wasn’t the case in Hillsborough County where Sheriff Chad Chronister halted evictions before the Governor’s order.
Gualtieri’s overall message to residents and visitors was “don’t stretch it,” as it relates to complying with the order.
“The quicker everyone does the right thing the quicker we can put this behind us,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is have this where we think it’s behind us and we have a relapse.”
“We know that if we don’t stay at home and help prevent that spread it will get far worse,” Burton added.
The two also confirmed construction is allowed to continue under the stay-at-home order, but that workers still needed to abide by social distancing standards.
He also encouraged residents to call or email the county tip center with questions or reports of noncompliance with the order.
Residents or visitors can call 727-582-TIPS. (8477) or email [email protected]. He said the call center is currently receiving about 300 calls a day.
Gualtieri and Burton will host another public outreach meeting on the Sheriff’s Facebook page Thursday at 6 p.m.