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Tampa To Enact Stay-At-Home Policy; At Odds With Hillsborough County

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announces her decision on Facebook Live
Facebook Live
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said she plans to enact a stay-at-home policy for the city. It would be enacted Wednesday morning and be enforced beginning at 11:59 p.m. that night.

It means most people will be asked to stay at home except for getting essential items, like going to the grocery store. It doesn't apply to health care workers, first responders, water and sanitation workers. Castor announced her plans Tuesday on Facebook.

"The stay-at-home approach is much better for our community," she said, "and will achieve that goal of social distancing and keeping individuals away from each other so that we can all remain safe in the city of Tampa."

Her unilateral move comes a day after a meeting on Monday, when Hillsborough County's Emergency Policy Group voted down Castor's request for a countywide shelter-in-place order. A majority of that group said only the county administrator can issue this kind of order.

"There has not been an emergency declaration," said Hillsborough Commission Chairman Les Miller. "That can only be called by the county administrator, that is given the authority by the Emergency Policy Group. If that comes about, we will let everyone know from the county - the county administrator will be the one to do that, because of the ordinance that gives him the power through the policy group to make those decisions."

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill issued a declaration Tuesday that he has the sole authority to issue such an order.

"I am confirming that decision by directing that no Stay-at-Home order shall be applicable in any portion of Hillsborough County until further direction  by  the  Emergency  Policy  Group,  unless  as  may  be  necessary  under  my  delegated authority," he wrote in the declaration.

The city of Tampa is arguing that in the absence of a county plan, state law gives a mayor authority to implement emergency orders for the city.

The issue should come to a head when the Emergency Policy Group holds its next meeting, at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.