PINELLAS COUNTY (CW44 News at 10) -May 28, 2020

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday extended its State of Local Emergency declaration for COVID-19 to June 5 and lifted rules pertaining to public beaches, shared pools and playgrounds that exceeded the state’s requirements. Additionally, the Board extended the application deadline for the Pinellas CARES programs for individual financial assistance and small business grants to June 30.

Pinellas County is aligned with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Safe, Smart, Step-by-Step Plan for Florida’s Recovery for COVID-19, but has had additional orders in place requiring social distancing at public beaches, limiting capacity at pools and closing public playgrounds. The Board lifted those orders, emphasizing that the change represents a shift toward personal responsibility to stay safe and protect others.

Beaches: Effective immediately, social distancing restrictions are removed, but visitors are strongly encouraged to continue spreading out and acting safely when visiting the beaches. Signage will remain at the beaches to remind visitors of best practices.

Pools: Effective at 3 p.m. today (May 28), hotel and motel pools may return to operating up to maximum load capacity. HOA, apartment, condominium and all other pool operators may resume full capacity starting Monday, June 1. This will give them time to adjust operations and post any necessary signage at their pool locations.

Childcare facility playgrounds: Effective immediately, facilities may resume their regular playground capacity and operations.

Public playgrounds: Effective June 1, they may reopen with strong social distancing and safety reminders. Caregivers visiting public playgrounds with children are also strongly encouraged to practice increased hand sanitation and consider bringing hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes with them.

Stay smart, stay safe
The adopted resolution directs individuals, businesses, operations and organizations to do the maximum possible to implement and comply with CDC guidance regarding social distancing, disinfection and other practices that help reduce risk of COVID-19 contagion. This includes wearing face masks when possible, and especially when social distancing cannot be easily achieved.

Pinellas CARES application extension
The extension of the Pinellas CARES Financial Assistance programs gives individuals another month to seek one-time assistance of up to $4,000 to help pay overdue rent, mortgage and utilities. Pinellas residents who have lost their job or significant income due to COVID-19 can apply for one-time assistance by texting COVIDCARES to 898211. Those who have questions or need to speak to someone by phone can also call 2-1-1 or visit this website for more information.

Small business owners with a commercial location in the county can also apply online for the Pinellas CARES Small Business Grant, a one-time $5,000 grant to cover expenses such as employee wages, vendor bills and mortgage or rent costs.  Applicants should review all eligibility requirements and ensure all required documents are correctly submitted to expedite the review and approval process for the grant. To apply online, visit http://pced.org/cares.

Fort De Soto Park vessel exclusion zones ordinance
After considering wide-ranging public viewpoints, the Board directed staff to not enact an amended ordinance relating to vessel exclusion zones at Fort De Soto Park that was approved at the May 19 meeting. Instead, via the Board’s direction, staff will work with the boating community, interested associations and other stakeholders to develop rules that carefully weigh issues of swimmer safety, vessel access and wildlife preservation. A modified ordinance will be brought back to the Board at a later date.