Poll: 56% of Pinellas residents oppose beach and pool reopenings
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
Pinellas voters are evenly divided over whether to open non-essential businesses.

As Pinellas Commissioners weigh reopening the county’s beautiful beaches, a new poll conducted on the eve of a decision shows that a majority of residents are opposed.

Only 37% of residents back reopening beaches and pools, according to the latest data from St. Pete Polls. 56 percent oppose the measure while 8% are undecided.

St. Pete Polls surveyed county residents Monday, ahead of an anticipated vote by the seven commissioners. Last month, the board closed all public beaches and public beach parking to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Polling also found that 69% of respondents favor a countywide order requiring people to wear masks in public. Only 27% oppose such an order while 5% are undecided.

On the issue of reopening nonessential business, Pinellas County voters are split. A slight number of voters, 46%, favor lifting the closures while 44% want those businesses to stay closed — within the 1.6% margin of error. The remaining 10% of respondents are undecided.

With nearby Sarasota County’s beaches open again as of Monday, the pressure is on for Pinellas County to join a growing list of counties that are moving toward reopening. Earlier this month, Jacksonville paved the way to reopen beaches, drawing national ire.

Late Friday, Pinellas County administrator Barry Burton penned a letter to the County Commission recommending the rollback of some restrictions set to slow the spread of COVID-19, including reopening beaches and pools with some restrictions.

Under Burton’s plan, beaches could reopen for exercise for limited hours, beach parking facilities could reopen after two days and restrooms could open with enhanced cleaning criteria. At pools, he recommended half capacity and that owners properly clean and sanitize pool areas and equipment.

The following day, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who opposed the initial closure, came out in favor of reopening beaches and pools in a Facebook post. The county’s initial concern of Spring Breakers crowding the beaches is now moot as only residents, many with beachfront properties, are left the enjoy the remaining amenities available during the stay-at-home order.

“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 wrote. “However, if necessary, [the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office] has the resources to ensure compliance through a gentle reminder.”

He pointed to the stabilization of new positive COVID-19 tests, which has hovered at between 4% and 8% in the past week, including those who have previously tested positive who were retested. In that same period, the statewide rate has been between 6% and 10%.

Meanwhile, hospitals have the capacity to handle the increase in new cases, “which will likely occur once closures are lifted.”

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s containment strategy calls for relaxed social distancing strategies after June 21 “with containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size.”

St. Pete Polls polled 3,697 active voters in Pinellas County by automated phone call. The results were weighted for political party, race, age, gender and media market.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


8 comments

  • Tammy

    April 28, 2020 at 6:51 am

    I totally think that restaurants and bars should be open up back to 50% beaches and pools should be open fully we have done what we set out to do which is lower the curve it is time to get back to some sort of normal life. People that are at risk have the human Choice & all the amenities to stay home and protect yourselves.

    • John

      April 28, 2020 at 11:45 am

      Florida along with several other states have not met the White House requirements for reopening. I believe we should follow the scientific requirement of opening after seeing 2 weeks of a falling curve. Opening now is not advisable.

  • Dawn Be

    April 28, 2020 at 7:19 am

    I am in favor of opening beaches and pools with social distancing guidelines/practices. I was not telephone polled.

    • Barbara Howard

      April 28, 2020 at 11:07 am

      I am not in favor of reopening the state.

      When we have no new cases each day then we can consider the action to open.

      People of all ages suffer & may die from this disease. Why rush to infect more people?

  • Richard Clendennen

    April 28, 2020 at 9:46 am

    Don’t believe polls.. The Media can’t be trusted! It’s time we all get on with our lives and Stop the doomsday fear mongers in the media most of them look down on the rest of us as the Sheeple.

  • Justin

    April 28, 2020 at 10:26 am

    I’d like to know who paid for the poll. Sometimes interest groups will conduct numerous polls and only release the one with the results they like to the media.

    I also wish the poll did not use the word “support” in the first two questions because supporting something sometimes means respecting or following it even if one does not believe in the policy, e.g. “Support our Troops/President/Law Enforcement/teachers”. The third question’s sentence structure (“should be allowed to open back
    up”) was less confusing and resulted in greater support for reopening, which shows confusion over the first two questions probably resulted in lower support for reopening.

  • Karen

    April 28, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    I don’t know when or who took this poll that you speak of about the beaches and pools. I have heard nothing about it. Exactly how many people actually took the poll? I could go further …how many people took the poll, average age, income, and so forth but no need to really get the actual data and tell the truth. I mean did 500 people take the poll, 2500? 25,000? How many people that ACTUALLY TOOK THE POLL CHANGES THOSE PERCENTAGES DRASTICALLY! Why don’t you try and report ACTUAL TRUTH AND NUMBERS when you write your reports? I mean isn’t that what journalism is supposed to be about? Reporting the truth?

    • NEVA S COMER

      May 4, 2020 at 12:30 pm

      This is bunk since nobody I know ever gets polled in anything.

Comments are closed.


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