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pinellas county

Pinellas County Commission Votes to Require Masks Inside Public Places

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Face mask stenciled on wall with COVID-19 caption. (Photo/Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash)
Face mask stenciled on wall with COVID-19 caption (Photo/Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash)

After a discussion that ran more than six hours, the Pinellas County Commission voted Tuesday night to require everyone over age 18 to wear face masks in all indoor public businesses in the county.

The new ordinance, which has numerous exemptions, goes into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The vote was 6 to 1 with Commissioner Kathleen Peters voting against the ordinance.

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Pinellas County Opens Up Parks, Pools, Beaches

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Beginning Monday, June 1, the playgrounds at Pinellas County parks, including Philippe Park in Safety Harbor, will be open.

And beginning today (May 28) the county restrictions of 50 percent capacity on hotel swimming pools are lifted. This would affect the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. Restrictions at other public pools, including those at condominiums, will be lifted on Monday,

Also beginning today (May 28) county restrictions at the beaches and limited capacity at daycare center playgrounds are lifted.

Pinellas County commissioners voted unanimously at their Thursday meeting to remove these local restrictions and also voted to extend the county’s state-of-emergency status to June 5.

The commissioners acknowledged that while the COVID-19 virus still poses a threat, the curve of infections has been flattened and public has been made aware of the risks.

“We’ve tried to flatten the curve. We’ve tried to put responsible practices in. And we’ve had a significant law enforcement presence,” said Pinellas County Administrator Barry A. Burton, who noted that the Sheriff’s Office and municipal law enforcement has done “a fantastic job” at educating the public.

“We’ve gotten past the Memorial Day weekend and so we believe it’s time to remove our restrictions and go with the governor’s orders,” he said.

Department of Health Director Dr. Ulyee Choe added that the number of positive tests for the COVID-19 virus is declining as is the number of people coming to the emergency room with symptoms.

The plan is for the country to continue to urge people to follow Governor Ron DeSantis’ statewide orders on social distancing as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention such as hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said health advisory signs at the beaches would stay in place. Burton said the county would be putting up similar signs at the county’s playgrounds.

County Program to Aid Small Business Off to Fast Start

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Signs posted by Safety Harbor Gifts and Antique on March 22, 2020 signal the impact of the coronavirus on local businesses. (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

More than 2200 applications for $5,000 grants to help small businesses in Pinellas County were filed when the program kicked off on Monday, according to Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton.

Burton reported to Commissioners at their Tuesday morning meeting that the program is moving forward smoothly with grant money going out soon.

The Pinellas County Commission has set aside $35 million to help “brick and mortar” businesses with fewer than 25 employees that suffered losses due to closure or cutbacks in service because of the COVID-19 virus.

The county estimates there are more than 6000 small Pinellas businesses, including many in Safety Harbor, that could qualify for a Pinellas Cares Small Business grant of $5,000 to cover things like employee wages, vendor bills and rent.

The goal is to get the grants awarded within 10 days. Burton said this is the first phase of a relief program that runs through June 1.

In the second phase, the program will be re-evaluated, and there may be funds awarded to businesses that are home-based, he said.

Pinellas County has $170 million grant to cover the small business grants and the Pinellas CARES Financial Assistance which is providing emergency payments up to $4,000 to help low-income families and individuals who have lost income during the COVID-19 crisis and cannot pay utility bills or housing costs.

Burton said Tuesday that over 5300 calls were received Monday for the Financial Assistance grants to individuals seeking aid.

To begin the process of determining eligibility, people can text “COVIDCARES” to 898211.  If they qualify, the money is paid directly to landlords, mortgage holders and/or utility companies.

Small business owners can get all the details about the business grant program and begin the process for obtaining the $5,000 grants by first going to https://covid19.pinellascounty.org/pinellascaresbusiness/

stonehenge of safety harbor

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