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Sheriff says he's against reopening Pinellas County beaches

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri compared reopening parts of the beaches to taking half a bottle of penicillin instead of the whole prescription.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A day after Pinellas County commissioners agreed to consider reopening parts of the beaches, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he's against the move.

Hosting a Facebook live discussion with County Administrator Barry Burton, Gualtieri answered questions regarding his views on the safety of the beaches amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The county's 35 miles of beaches have been closed since March. Commissioners on Monday said they would discuss, during a Thursday meeting, reopening parts of the beaches for exercise.

Gualtieri compared reopening the beaches to taking half a bottle of penicillin instead of the whole prescription. 

"If you're' sick...you don't stop taking the penicillin halfway through the cycle of the prescription," he said. "You finish it all the way through."

The sheriff also reminded the public that the state is only 10 days into Gov. Ron DeSantis' stay at home order and Florida will be at a "pivot point" at the end of April. 

"We are in the middle of this, we can't now just stop it," he said. "If we stop it, we're going to get worse than we were before."

RELATED: Pinellas County to consider reopening parts of beaches for exercise during pandemic

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Gualtieri originally opposed closing county beaches before the local stay at home order and then the state "safer at home" order was enacted. Now, he's stressing consistency when it comes to social distancing practices to stop the spread of coronavirus.

"We can't keep moving people back and forth," he said. "We have to remain consistent."

The sheriff was also asked about any plans to consider a curfew in Pinellas County like Hillsborough County passed on Monday. 

"There is no reason for that in Pinellas County," he said, noting that he spoke to Sheriff Chad Chronister and said Hillsborough is hoping a curfew will help deal with specific problems in that county.

Pinellas commissioners said they will discuss further the possibility of reopening parts of the beaches to walkers, joggers and other people exercising. Most agreed on considering the move but said they wanted to hear from Gualtieri first and to discuss plans to keep people from gathering in large crowds in the sand.

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