While Hillsborough and Pinellas County joined the rest of the state in closing public schools through March 27, the Tampa Bay area’s two most populous counties took other different measures Friday in response to the coronavirus.
Hillsborough County announced that it’s cancelling all its events and meetings, including public hearings, through April 13.
The closure also impacts programs at Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Libraries and Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation facilities.
Libraries will remain open for normal use, but will not be available for group or public meetings. Parks will also be open.
Hillsborough County Senior Centers will be closed, which includes adult day care and congregate dining services. The county is working to increase the provision of in-home meals.
Hillsborough County Senior Centers will be closed.
On the other side of Tampa Bay, the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners declared a local state of emergency Friday as a response to the coronavirus. The move came a day after Hillsborough County did the same.
The decision allows administrators to approve expenditures and issue special orders for public safety.
Pinellas has reported two travel-related cases of coronavirus: a 67-year-old man and a 64-year-old man.
While both men have been isolated and remain stable, commissioners say they’re taking the necessary preventive measures to hopefully slow the spread of the epidemic and avoid further taxing an already overwhelmed healthcare system.
They are encouraging people to avoid mass gatherings and social interactions, especially with people who are more vulnerable to exposure. However, they did not talk Friday about cancelling any particular events.
For now, commissioners have asked area city managers to evaluate the events that are coming up and make a good decision about them.
One of the main concerns of commissioners is protecting people who are more vulnerable to coronavirus. Pinellas County has 71 nursing homes, 177 assisted living facilities and 14 adult daycares, with a total of over 13,500 residents.
Acting on Gov. Ron DeSantis' orders, measures are being taken to limit access to these places.
“So we're taking the action to say you will limit interaction at our long-term care facilities, and you're required to have preventative measures in place to screen those that are coming into the facility,” said county administrator Barry Burton. “The sheriff (Bob Gualtieri) has agreed to deliver this letter that we're going to prepare from me to them and deliver that to each and every facility that we have in the county.”
Regarding elections, the only change has been moving some polling places out of assisted living facilities – but the county needs more volunteers.
“We could use volunteers because people are declining to do that. And the election system runs largely on volunteers or part-time workers,” said Commissioner Pat Gerald.
Lastly, even though there are currently no supply shortages, commissioners are encouraging people to think about community and avoid hoarding.