Hillsborough County just canceled the coronavirus curfew

The topic of mandatory masks is still on the table.

UPDATED: 04/16/20 3:22 p.m.

Hillsborough County’s curfew meant to limit nighttime gatherings didn’t even last a week.

At a Thursday afternoon meeting, Hillsborough’s Emergency Policy Group voted 8-0 to rescind the curfew, which was enacted on Monday night after a 5-3 vote.

On Thursday, a motion cancel the curfew was offered by Hillsborough County School Board chairwoman Melissa Snively and seconded by Plant City Mayor Rick Lott.

Hillsborough County’s already in-effect “safer-at-home” order currently directs residents to stay home as much as possible, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” The order—which passed on March 26—asks residents to stay home except when performing essential tasks, like getting groceries, liquor, or going to the doctor.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman, who opposed the curfew on Monday, acknowledged that Commission Chair Les Miller was trying to save lives in pushing for the curfew, but did say that the curfew did create some confusion. “I think what's readily clear by what Commissioner Miller said is that it is imperative that our citizens follow the stay at home guidelines and understand the rule,” Overman said.

“Some people just did not understand how critically important it is for us to follow those rules to save our county, and our jobs in our community. And while I'll support today's motion, I do understand how hard it is to help our people understand that, with rights comes responsibility,” Overman added. “It is everyone's responsibility in Hillsborough County, as well as the state of Florida, to follow the guidelines to allow us to get back on track, so that we can do the great work that we do here in Hillsborough County.”

Before the vote, Miller emotionally laid out his argument for pushing for the curfew and explained that the county had received “600 emails” with some calling him—the lone Black person on county commission—the “N-word” and “Nazi.”

Miller, knowing the curfew was on the way out, reiterated that an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis says that a “social gathering in a public space is not an essential activity… local jurisdiction shall ensure that groups of people greater than 10 are not permitted to congregate.”

He implored law enforcement to approach offenders, educate them that their actions are wrong and ask them to leave.

“If they don't utilize the authority that was given to you, under this executive order arrest ‘em,” Miller added before alluding to the curve of new coronavirus infections. “Because if you don't, those numbers that we talked about getting, are gonna rise, and we're gonna hit that peak.”

It’s important to note that Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan had previously said that his officers haven’t made any arrests during Hillsborough’s three-week-old safer-at-home order. Dugan has referred to arrests as a last resort, and would not guarantee that his officers wouldn’t issue second-degree misdemeanor charges, which carry a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

During Thursday’s meeting, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said that the curfew only confused the public. 

“The curfew is clearly not a tool that law enforcement needs,” Chronister said. “Our hearts were in the right place… This group simply moved too quickly.”

On Wednesday night, the campaign for Chronister (who is running for reelection) sent a poll asking respondents if they support the curfew passed on Monday night. About 33,000 had responded by 1 p.m. Thursday, with about two-thirds saying they supported the curfew.

It's also not mandatory, but wearing a mask in public is highly recommended.

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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