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Hillsborough officials will consider countywide curfew Wednesday to fight coronavirus

Tampa’s mayor and Hillsborough’s county administrator are at odds over ordering residents to stay home. So the county’s emergency leadership group moved up its next meeting to discuss a new option: A curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor listens during a status report meeting by the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group at the Hillsborough County Public Safety Operations Complex on Thursday, March 12, 2020 in Tampa.  [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor listens during a status report meeting by the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group at the Hillsborough County Public Safety Operations Complex on Thursday, March 12, 2020 in Tampa. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times]

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UPDATE: Tampa Bay leaders are divided on whether to order residents to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Here’s where the leaders in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties stand.

TAMPA — Tampa’s mayor and Hillsborough County’s administrator are at over whether to issue a stay-at-home order to the public. The mayor says she can order her city’s residents to do so, but the administrator said he can countermand that order.

Enter the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group, which has jumped back into the fray and announced an emergency meeting on Wednesday to consider instituting a countywide curfew in an effort to slow the coronavirus’ spread.

Under that plan, the curfew would be in effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Related: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Hillsborough County at odds over stay-at-home order

The group of elected officials, including three county commissioners, three city mayors, the sheriff, the county administrator and the school board chairwoman, plans to convene Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. during a conference call. It will be broadcast live, with captions, on:

• Hillsborough County’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HillsboroughFL/

• The county’s official YouTube channel: youtube.com/HillsboroughCounty

• The county’s HTV cable television channel: Spectrum 637 and Frontier 22

The group rejected the idea of ordering a countywide curfew as recently as Monday, when Tampa Mayor Jane Castor unsuccessfully pushed for a stay-at-home order for all of Hillsborough County. The plan was for county staff to collect more information on how other communities are combating the spread of COVID-19 before the group convened again on Thursday.

But the decision was moved up a day after a tumultuous Tuesday of conflicting orders between the city and the county.

Castor, Tampa’s former police chief, has said it would be easier for police and sheriff’s deputies to enforce a stay-at-home order than to enforce a countywide curfew. Both would come with their share of exemptions to the rule, but under a stay-at-home order, the only people allowed outside their homes at night would be “essential personnel.”

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, who says he can block Castor from ordering a shelter in place order for her city, brought up the idea of a countywide curfew during the group’s March 19 meeting.

Check tampabay.com on Wednesday for updates on what Hillsborough County leaders will do next.'

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