Pinellas County beaches likely to open this week as two powerful allies sign on
The beach closed sign and barricade at the beach access walkover at 16th Ave and Gulf Way on Saturday, March 21, 2020 at Pass-a-Grille. Pinellas County beaches are now closed. Pinellas County announced that all public beaches closed starting onSaturday. (Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times via AP) AP

Virus Outbreak Florida
Lingering in beach chairs with cocktails would be prohibited.

Pinellas County looks poised to reopen its beaches with two powerful county officials giving their blessing.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri joined County Administrator Barry Burton in supporting the beaches reopen.

In a detailed list on Facebook Saturday, Gualtieri laid out five reasons he believes this is the week to allow residents back on the beaches.

Gualtieri said the county’s coronavirus curve has flattened, the county’s positive test ratio has dropped, the county already hit its peak of deaths, spring breakers are gone and residents have adapted to social distancing requirements and hospital capacity remains well-equipped.

“Pinellas County has accomplished the goal of stabilizing the number of new cases. Our community has averaged about 15 new cases per day for the past 20 days, including specific increases from a couple of nursing homes,” Gualtieri wrote.

“The percentage of positive tests in Pinellas County has remained stable at approximately 5%, which is half the statewide average of approximately 10%. Florida, and specifically Pinellas County, continues to see a significantly lower rate of incidence of COVID-19 cases than other areas of the country,” he continued.

Gualtieri argued those who have been able to continue using beaches, private property owners, have consistently followed recommended social distancing guidelines.

“It has been 23 days since Florida hit its daily deaths peak and 13 days since we hit our peak use of hospital resources, which means the worst is behind us.

At this time, Pinellas County residents have adjusted to the new norm of social distancing, and I believe they will continue to responsibly use these best practices on our beaches and in the pools,” he said. “However, if necessary, PCSO has the resources to ensure compliance through a gentle reminder.”

Gualtieri’s public call to open public beaches follows Burton’s letter to County Commissioners.

“To continue to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Pinellas County, it is recommended that restrictions are gradually lifted to ensure the progress that has been made to this point is not diminished,” Burton wrote in a memo.

“The next phase is not a return to normality, it is learning how to live with the pandemic while mitigating the impact on our community.”

Burton recommended opening the beaches for exercise only. The beaches would be open for walking and jogging, but coolers and chairs would be prohibited.

It’s another step in a long line of returning to normalcy as coastal cities across the state grapple with reopening beaches. Duval and St. Johns counties on the east coast have already allowed people back on their beaches on a limited basis and Sarasota beaches opened early Monday.

“It is my trust in Pinellas County residents and belief in the available data that makes me confident that we can safely open our beaches and pools and this week is the right time to do so,” Gualtieri wrote.

The recommendations also include opening private pools at apartment complexes and condos.

Pinellas County Commissioners are expected to consider the recommendations at a meeting Tuesday.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].

One comment

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    April 27, 2020 at 9:52 am

    BUT lingering in beach chairs with Clorox or Lysol on ice OK.

Comments are closed.


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