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Pinellas County Prepares For A Busy Spring Break

Businesses on and near Pinellas beaches are bracing for crowds all while attempting to follow safety regulations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It’s only the start of March and the beginning of what’s expected to be a busy spring break, but Pinellas County is already seeing signs of increased visitor traffic.

Barry Burton, chief administrative officer for Pinellas County government, said that there’s been an uptick in hotel and airport bookings.

“People are wanting to get out of both the cold and places that have tight regulations,” said Burton. “I’m sure the beaches will be fairly full.”

But he reiterated that there is still a mask mandate in place, and that bars and restaurants continue to be required to enforce social distancing.

“We’re open, but you need to at least try to be safe,” Burton added.

Beaches will be open as well, and he said there will be no effort by law enforcement to minimize access — at least if people adhere to guidelines.

That’s unlike last year, when Pinellas County made headlines worldwide as hundreds of sheriff’s deputies closed more than 300 access points to over 35 miles of beaches.

“It was a monumental effort, so we’re not doing that again this year,” said Burton. “We’re asking people to do the right thing, and use reasonable common sense.”

He said that police will patrol and inspect beach bars and restaurants to ensure that safety measures are being followed.

Robin Miller, CEO of Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, said businesses are going above and beyond to promote a safe experience.

“A restaurant is allowed to operate at 100% capacity today, according to the state of Florida and Pinellas County executive orders,” said Miller. “And some of those businesses have opted not to go to full 100% occupancy, so that they can have safe social distancing for their clients.”

Miller also spoke about the economic impact of spring break on the area, particularly after a down year in 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic.

“Spring break has historically been the cash flow king for a majority of our businesses in the destination,” said Miller. “(Businesses) were all shut down this time last year, they had about a 50% drop in visitation.”

In addition, beach establishments — not just restaurants and bars, but places like hotels and stores — usually hire in March in preparation for spring break, but Miller said this year, hiring is noticeably more active.

“We’re seeing now, post-pandemic, a higher need for employees and even long-term employees,” Miller added.

Miller also said Pinellas County is hosting six job fairs in four different beach communities next Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday to help connect businesses with potential employees.

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Josuan Rodriguez