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Signs at every entrance indicate beach rules during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo via Janelle Irwin Taylor

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Know before you go: Check this Pinellas County tracker to avoid packed beaches

With a three-day weekend and now-open vacation rentals, it’s likely to be busy.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has launched a beach dashboard showing which beach access points are open.

The dashboard shows all of the county’s 150 access points. It indicates locations as either open, reaching capacity or closed.

The dashboard will be activated for Memorial Day weekend at 1 p.m. Friday. Officials will update capacity at beaches and parking lots every hour through Monday.

Capacity is likely to be lowest during morning hours and increase into the afternoon.

The tool is useful to find beach access points that aren’t as well-known to find a slice of paradise where there’s still plenty of room to stay safe.

Pinellas County opened its beaches opened May 4. The county didn’t impose restrictions on beach activity — sunbathing, coolers and lounge chairs are allowed — but is enforcing social distancing standards with a sizable law enforcement presence along the entire Pinellas County Gulf coast.

The Sheriff’s Office will also post beach updates to its Twitter page.

Last weekend, when the dashboard first launched, the Sheriff’s office indicated they expected crowded sands.

“Based on the Beach Capacity Dashboard analytics, is it going to be busy?”

The answer? “Yes.”

The post was accompanied by a gif showing Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, played by Johnny Depp, running along a beach chased by a hoard of marauders.

 

With vacation rentals now open in Pinellas County, expect those crowds to be even larger as locals look for a stay-cation release from the stress of closures and restrictions for the last two months.

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 Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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