UPDATED: 03/25/20 10:23 a.m.
In a Tuesday afternoon Facebook Live address, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said she’s looking to start a citywide stay-at-home order at 12 a.m. on Thursday, March 26.
On Monday, reports said that a working five-page draft of the order noted that people should not go to work unless they fall into certain categories including: essential services (think: public sector, public health and health care workers), on-duty military service members, social services, and charitable groups including animal shelters.
There are also two handfuls of exceptions listed in the draft.
“But here's the deal. [The order] allows movement, it allows personal freedom,” Castor explained on Tuesday afternoon. “If you want to go out for a run, you can do that. If you need to go to a doctor's appointment, you can do that, if you need to go to work, whatever it is that you need to do, as long as you can practice social distancing.”
“There aren't a lot of businesses or services that fall outside of essential, unless they're bringing groups of people together, and that we're looking at our tourist industry or looking at, you know, restaurant dine-in, those types of things where we're bringing groups of people together. That's what we're trying to stop.”
Castor reiterated that takeout and carryout operations for restaurants would still be allowed under the stay-at-home order.
She also said that she does not support a curfew for minors, which makes sense.
It’s CL’s opinion that the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, is uniquely contagious—no matter how old or young you are—at all hours of the day, not just when it’s dark out and the boogie man comes out to play in the streets.
“I believe that the stay-at-home, is the best approach because it is 24 hours a day,” Castor said, adding that if there was a hypothetical 10 p.m. curfew, then folks would be rushing to get shit done at 9 p.m., resulting in the mass congregations of humanity social distancing tries to eliminate.
Off camera, City of Tampa spokesperson Ashley Bauman was heard relaying a question about enforcement of stay-at-home order.
“Well, again, we're not looking at these things as an enforcement issue,” Castor responded. “We're asking individuals to take on this personal responsibility to go along with the requirement, so that we can all stay healthy.”
Creative Loafing Tampa Bay asked Bauman if the mayor’s office could speak to social media murmur about fines or jail times for anyone caught violating the stay-at-home order.
She confirmed the previous quote about Castor not “looking at these things as an enforcement issue” and told CL that, “Until the EO [executive order] is issued, I don’t believe we should be speculating.”
The news comes a day after a Monday meeting where fellow members of the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group shot down Castor’s plan for a county-wide shelter-in-place order. Castor’s remarks also arrived after Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill issued an administrative order saying that no portion of the county will be under such an order until the county decides.”
A copy of Merrill’s order says:
“Pursuant to the discussions which took place at the Emergency Policy Group meeting of March 23, 2020 the vote by the Group to not institute a Stay-at-Home Order at this time, and in order to ensure unity of action throughout the county, I am confirming that decision by directing that no Stay-at-Home order shall be applicable in any portion of Hillsborough County until further direction by the Emergency Policy Group, unless as may be necessary under my delegated authority.”
That line about “unity of action throughout the county” plays into the big wet argument the Times Editorial Board made about playing nice regarding a pandemic that’s killed 20 in Florida as of early Wednesday morning.
And while St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman appears to be onboard with stay-at-home orders that take great lengths to protects the constituents who live in his and Castor’s city’s the rest of the country, Merrill’s hesitation (he seeks more clarity on enforcement and the logistics among other things) seems to be more of a sign that the county hasn’t been spending enough time being obsessed with preparing to stop a pandemic that we won’t know enough about until more coronavirus test kits get to our neck of the woods.
According to reporters at the Tampa Bay Times, only 13,000 people have been tested in a state with over 21 million people.
As my colleague Colin Wolf pointed out, “Wishing for tests is one thing, knowing your state is chugging along with undiagnosed carriers, and acting like everyone is healthy and fine, is just plain stupid and dangerous.”
So yeah, who gives a damn if Castor’s bold language feels like a power move? At least she’s treating the coronavirus pandemic like the emergency it is.
The aforementioned Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group has moved its Thursday meeting to Wednesday, March 25.
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