Hello, my friends. I hope this finds you safe and well. I thought this would be a good time to update you on our efforts to contain COVID-19 and recover from its many impacts.


COVID-19 has affected all of us. We mourn for those the disease has claimed, and empathize with those who have lost loved ones or gotten sick or have had to quarantine due to an exposure. Some of us have lost jobs or been furloughed or have had to fight to keep our business going. We have watched our kids miss graduations and once-in-a-lifetime activities, and our elderly go unvisited in nursing homes. We’ve had to postpone personal freedoms like going church or ballgames or being with friends.


But our resiliency has shown through, and thanks to your willingness to stay home and stay safe when it mattered most, we’re on the road to recovery. Our beautiful beaches have reopened with restrictions, and we are again sharing them with the visitors who are so vital to our economy. Restaurants and retail stores have reopened, and so have gyms – again, with special conditions. You can get your hair cut, your car washed, and yes, your dog groomed. I know how important these personal services are to our residents and especially to our small business owners.


This does not mean we can let our guard down. There is no vaccine for COVID-19, and for those who contract a severe case of it, there’s no sure treatment. We still must practice social distancing, extra hand washing and extra sanitizing. While it is not required, we are encouraged to wear a mask in indoor places where social distancing is difficult. Anyone who’s over 65, has underlying health issue, should avoid public places as much as possible.


We on the Board of County Commissioners have put your safety and welfare first throughout this pandemic. We have kept our Local State of Emergency active, allowing our County Administrator to expedite expenditures and special orders needed to ensure public safety. And while we have issued some temporary special orders, I want to emphasize that we have followed the state’s lead in terms of any business restrictions. We have used the Governor’s definition of essential when evaluating business operations. As so much information is shared so rapidly, it is critical to have as much uniformity and consistency as possible. As of this writing, we are in “full Phase 1” of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Safe, Smart, Step by Step Plan for Florida’s recovery.


A lot has been happening behind the scenes. Our Emergency Management team has remained activated for COVID-19 while also preparing for hurricane season. We’ve stood up working groups for COVID-19 special concerns, including Community Well-Being, Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities, Hospitals, Logistics, Crisis Stabilization, Behavioral Health and Business. We have implemented Pinellas Cares financial assistance programs for businesses and individuals and families. And our Marketing and Communications team has kept you informed about everything from testing to food pantries through several channels, including our website, covid19.pinellas.org. More than 300,000 of you have visited the website to view updates on testing, reopening plans, health information and more.


Through all of this, we have worked closely with our partners at the Department of Health, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Schools and our 24 municipalities. Our partners in the healthcare system have continued to provide great care for patients, and while case numbers have continued to rise as we do more testing, the system has not been overwhelmed.


Next month, I will update you about the importance of being prepared for the 2020 hurricane season. As always, if you have questions or comments, you can reach me at (727) 464-3363 or cjustice@pinellascounty.org.