Hillsborough County will no longer be under a curfew.
The Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group on Thursday voted unanimously to rescind the curfew, which had gone into effect Monday night.
During Thursday’s meeting, group members said the curfew – which required residents to stay indoors from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. – ended up confusing the public.
Group members also voted down a request by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to mandate people wear masks in public, and an amendment by County Commissioner Kimberly Overman to require that "essential" businesses that are unable to guarantee a 6-foot distancing requirement from their customers or each other require facial coverings.
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They instead asked to make that a recommendation.
Members of the group revoked the curfew after saying it was duplicating what was already in the county’s existing stay-at-home order to stop the spread of COVID-19. Plant City Mayor Rick Lott said it was unclear to the public as to what was allowed – and what wasn’t.
"From our citizen’s standpoint, it sends the wrong message. It is the wrong message," Lott said. "And I don’t think we should lead from fear amongst our citizens, but lead them through encouraging them and motivating them and making recommendations."
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister concurred, saying the curfew was hastily approved and is redundant, since there is already a countywide stay at home order.
School board chair Melissa Snively says the group acted hastily at their Monday meeting.
'"Since Monday, my phone has been ringing off the hook, and my email has been flooded by citizens from all over the county who are upset about the curfew," she said. "It sent the wrong message to the majority of citizens who are abiding by it. People believe it's redundant, it's confusing and unnecessary."
County Commission Chair Les Miller originally requested the curfew. He said he was trying to keep people from congregating, and trying to save lives. He repeated predictions that the number of new COVID-19 cases in Hillsborough won't begin peaking until the end of April and beginning of May.
"I made that motion because of the mere fact that I'm trying to save lives in this county," Miller said. "We've just heard that in the latter part of this month and the first part of May, we're going to hit our high numbers. Either those that are infected and getting into our hospitals or those that are losing their lives. And even those that are walking around with this disease and don't even know that they have it."
The curfew was enacted after dozens of large gatherings took place over the weekend, prompting nearly 40 calls to police reporting that people not paying attention to social distancing.
Group members later voted down a request by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to mandate the public wear masks in public. They also voted down an amendment by County Commissioner Kimberly Overman to require that "essential" businesses that are unable to guarantee a 6-foot distancing requirement from their customers or each other wear facial coverings. They instead asked to make that a recommendation.
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