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Gualtieri Urges 'Personal Responsibility' As Pinellas Beaches Will Remain Open On Fourth Of July

Clearwater Beach, and other beaches across Pinellas County, will remain open during the Fourth of July weekend.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Pinellas County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday not to close beaches for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The beaches quickly filled to capacity on Memorial Day weekend, and they were heavily patrolled by law enforcement.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told commissioners his deputies can't monitor things that way this weekend, because so many businesses have reopened.

“The problem is not the people on the sand, it’s the restaurants, it’s the hotels – those areas where they’re in those spaces, and that’s what we’ve heard from the doctors is the problem,” Gualtieri said. “It’s not the outside air.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said people need to take personal responsibility for social distancing.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said people need to take personal responsibility for social distancing.

Gualtieri said he understands people might be tired of hearing about social distancing and mask-wearing, but those are still the best ways to protect themselves from coronavirus.

“Where does personal responsibility come in – you know? When are we going to stop holding everybody’s hand? Either they’re going to do it, or they’re not at this point,” Gualtieri said.

Despite the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the county, Emergency Medical Services director Dr. Angus Jameson told commissioners that local health care facilities are managing all right this week. But an influx of COVID-19 cases could really strain the network.

“The current state of the pandemic is putting a significant amount of stress both on the hospitals and on the EMS system, and we need to continue to do whatever we can to control the growth of cases and to make sure that those resources are protected,” Jameson said.

Pinellas County law enforcement will be monitoring the beaches, but will focus on breaking up crowds and enforcing capacity limits for businesses.

Beaches in Manatee and Sarasota will also be open for the holiday weekend. Sarasota commissioners will discuss beach closures at their budget meeting today.

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Lisa Peakes is the local host of NPR's All Things Considered on WUSF 89.7.