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Pinellas County agrees to keep beaches closed amid pandemic

Commissioners decided not to vote on reopening county beaches after hearing from the sheriff, residents and other local leaders.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County Commissioners agreed Thursday morning during a virtual meeting to keep beaches closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move came days after the group said it would discuss and possibly vote on reopening parts of the beaches for exercise. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and other local leaders urged the commission to not pull back restrictive measures in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

County Administrator Barry Burton, who joined Gualtieri for a live discussion on Tuesday, said county leaders need to work with city leaders and brainstorm the best ways to eventually ease public restrictions. But, he said, it’s too early to start reopening gathering places like the beaches.

“Beaches are a little more particular because they can attract a lot of people back to the hotels, to dragging over in parking,” said Burton, adding that even if the county closed public parking areas, it could lead to clusters of people in neighborhoods.

“We need to work with our municipalities and regarding how in fact we would open public beaches. And I think that that input from them and working with our law enforcement personnel to have a comprehensive strategy in anticipation of a relaxation of those orders at some point in the future would be important to have a strategy that we would feel comfortable presenting…” said Burton.

Vice Chairman Dave Eggers agreed and said there needs to be more discussion among the commission, law enforcement and city leaders.

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