Beaches packed before county's closure goes into effect midnight Saturday

Parking, beach chairs, and open sand were scarce at Pass-A-Grille Beach Friday.

With the weekend practically here, people tried to enjoy one last day on the sand because, come 11:59 p.m. Friday, Pinellas county beaches will be closed until April 6.

On Pass-A-Grille beach, the attitude Friday afternoon was ‘enjoy it while you can.’

“I’m not concerned, we are keeping a safe distance from everybody,” a beachgoer told FOX 13 News, despite every beach cabana being filled and the line at the concession stand stretching almost to the sand.

That’s part of the reason county commissioners made the emergency decision Thursday to close the beaches, after receiving thousands of emails and phone calls from the public, wanting them closed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Clearwater was going to wait until Monday to shut it all down, but now has to follow the county’s order to close Friday night.

MORE: Pinellas County votes to close all public beaches and parking starting Friday

Officers will set up barricades and patrol the sand. Their plan is to politely ask anyone who shows up to leave, but if they don’t listen, they could be arrested.

“By all means, that is not our goal, to arrest anybody,” said Clearwater Police Department spokesman Rob Shaw. “Our hope is that everyone will be compliant and do what that order provides.”

Related: Manatee, Sarasota counties stagger beach closings, starting Friday

The county’s top law enforcement officer seemed against the decision to close beaches.

“I don’t think it’s serious enough to do it at all,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. “What are these kids going to do? Go home? That’s not going to happen.”

Gualtieri did not say if he will station his deputies on the beach, but said they expect people to comply. Issues will be handled case-by-case, he said.

Meanwhile, folks on the beach felt like it’s the only outlet they have left.

 “It’s not like we are all packed in one room or anything. It’s the outdoors! Yeah, close a gym because everyone is all close and sweaty. We are outside,” a beachgoer commented.

County leaders say they understand closed beaches is difficult to enforce, especially when it comes to private property, but the message is for everyone to stay home until April 6.


On Pass-A-Grille beach, the attitude Friday afternoon was ‘enjoy it while you can.’

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