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Pinellas County sheriff wants beaches, pools reopened. County administrator pushing phased approach

"These orders were never intended to eliminate COVID-19, nor is that possible at the present time, or the foreseeable future," Sheriff Gualtieri said.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Public beaches and public beach parking reopened in Pinellas County? That's what one county administrator is proposing to county commissioners. 

On Tuesday, a three-page memo is set to go before the Pinellas County Commission. In it, two steps outline measures that the county can take to ease itself into reopening, while still slowing the spread of coronavirus.

If the steps in this proposal are adopted by the board, Pinellas County would follow other Florida counties like Duval and Flagler, whose beaches have already opened, and Sarasota County, whose beaches are set to open Monday.

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Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri supports the initiative and trusts that beach-goers will abide by the rules.

"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. However, if necessary, PCSO has the resources to ensure compliance through a gentle reminder," he wrote in a Facebook post.

The sheriff argues the orders and restrictions put in place have largely done their job.

"The purpose of the Safer at Home and other orders was to 'flatten the curve' and stop any rapid increase of COVID-19 cases that would overwhelm our healthcare system. These orders were never intended to eliminate COVID-19, nor is that possible at the present time, or the foreseeable future."

But County Administrator Barry A. Burton stressed in his memo that "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."

According to Burton, step one would reopen public beaches, public beach parking lots and public swimming pools. 

Like other counties, beaches would be open for limited hours and restrict activities to exercise only and would prohibit items such as chairs, coolers and blankets.

This first step also allots for a two-day lead time before county public beaches and beach parking lots would reopen to give administrators time to prepare. Public beach restrooms will be reopened as well with enhanced cleaning and sanitation. 

The Centers for Disease Control on Prevention (CDC) recommended social distancing guidelines will be required for all beachgoers. 

RELATED: How will Florida reopen from the COVID-19 pandemic?

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Additionally, the first step would reopen swimming pools at hotels, motels, condominiums, etc. Pools would have to operate at 50 percent of its maximum bathing load. A two-day notice would also be in place before they would reopen. 

Public playgrounds would remain closed under this step, although playgrounds and equipment could be used at child care facilities. 

Step two recommends the board update the County Safer at Home order in anticipation of either the extension or expiration of the statewide safer at home order. The statewide safer at home order is set to expire on April 30.

M E M O R A N D U M Members of the Board of County Commissioners On April 1, 2020 the Governor issued Executive Order 20-91, restricting Floridians' movementto essential services and essential activities. Previously, the Pinellas Board of CountyCommissioners closed public beaches and public beach parking facilities in Resolution No.

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