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Hillsborough Now Under A Curfew As Crowds Gather Despite Coronavirus Orders

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

UPDATE: The Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group on Thursday voted unanimously to rescind the curfew. [Read more]

A curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. is set to go into effect beginning Monday night after dozens of large gatherings took place over the weekend.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said there were 24 calls to police Saturday concerning large groups getting together and not paying attention to social distancing, and another 14 calls on Easter Sunday.

At a meeting Monday of the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group, County Commission Chair Les Miller said officials need to send a more urgent notice to people to stop congregating.

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"We must do something today about the social gatherings, people having parties, people coming together and not paying attention to what they're doing, is really just - I don't want to say they don't care - but they just think they're invincible," Miller said.

"We can't allow this to happen any longer. Our numbers are going to get worse, our deaths are going to get worse, our hospitals are going to get filled. We can't afford to do that."

More than 100 people gathered at one event in East Tampa over the weekend, Miller said.

"I think because the mere fact is that they're not getting tested, there's someone in there who's going to have the COVID-19 symptoms, they're going to spread this disease with them," he said, "and they spread it to someone else, and the numbers that we're going to see either in the hospitals or in our funeral homes are going to start increasing, if we don't do something."

Members of the group had considered a curfew at one of their first meetings on March 26, but decided to enact the safer-at-home policy instead.

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The vote by the Group was 5 to 3.

Plant City Mayor Rick Lott cast one of the no votes. He said the current stay-at-home restrictions are working, and it would unfairly penalize people who work late shifts and need to go shopping after the curfew starts at 9 p.m.

People going to the grocery store, pharmacy, or to or from another essential activity, are allowed out during curfew hours.

Violators face the same penalty for not adhering to the stay-at-home rule: a second-degree misdemeanor carrying up to $500 fine or up to 60 days in jail.

At their next meeting on Thursday, the group is likely to approve Tampa Mayor Jane Castor's suggestion to have everyone wear face coverings while in public where they will interact with other people. This would include in stores, while using public transit, or running essential errands.

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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.