ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As various coronavirus-related orders are put in place around Tampa Bay and beyond, you may be thinking, what does this mean? Can I leave my house at all? In short, the answer is yes, but experts say it should really be for "essential" reasons like exercise or buying groceries.

All essential services are staying open. That means places like grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, food banks, banks and law enforcement offices are continuing to operate in some capacity -- even if they're taking precautions to protect against COVID-19.

So, for example, if you're driving to an essential job or to pick up food, you're OK. And, public transportation to those places is fine, too.

If you're going outside, you're heavily encouraged to practice social distancing by staying six feet away from other people.

Public transportation is considered an essential service. Regional public transit services in the Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough Regional Area Transit, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, The Bus in Hernando County, MCAT in Manatee, SCAT in Sarasota, PCPT in Pasco County and Citrus connections/Lakeland Area Mass Transit in Polk County will still operate. 

Officials with each agency are monitoring ridership, which has significantly dropped, and are looking at changing routes if needed.

Public transit riders are asked to limit trips to essential ones like going to the pharmacy, a critical doctor’s appointment or dialysis. 

People are also asked to stagger seating, to create a safe social distance, and stay home if they are sick.

Meantime, all fleets are being thoroughly disinfected. That includes disinfecting frequent touchpoints like steering wheels, seats, handrails and more.

In Hillsborough County, the partnership between Hillsborough County Schools and HART to provide transport to “Grab and Go“ locations, will continue. 

The service provides prepackaged breakfast and lunch to students at 23 locations in Hillsborough County. 

The school district says it is considered an essential service.

With regard to ongoing construction projects, FDOT has determined infrastructure and construction are mission-critical. All work to improve roads across our area will continue as scheduled, weather permitting.

Lastly, FDOT will continue to monitor traffic in and around COVID-19 testing locations. They are removing lane restrictions to help traffic flow near sites. 

They have also removed size and weight restrictions for trucks in all other vehicles transporting medical supplies along state roads.

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