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Hillsborough County limits all public and private gatherings to 50 people

The order from County Administrator Mike Merrill will apply to churches as well as bars.

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TAMPA — All public and private events and gatherings in Hillsborough County will be limited to 50 people under an order to be issued Tuesday.

County Administrator Mike Merrill said at a news conference he is issuing the order based on current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit the spread of coronavirus in Florida. The order applies to churches, Merrill said.

The announcement came the morning after Merrill issued an order restricting nightlife, joining other governments across Tampa Bay in the action. Bars, restaurants, clubs and other establishments within Hillsborough County — including Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City — must close by 10 p.m.

Those establishments will also have to limit their occupancy load by 50 percent. They can continue to offer take-out food and non-alcoholic drinks. That order takes effect at noon on Tuesday.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the two restrictions will be applied together, and whether a cap of 50 people will supersede the 50 percent rule, said county spokeswoman Michelle VanDyke.

“We do have to be aware of the necessity of social distancing,” Merrill said. “Sometimes that works well based on people’s personal responsibility, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Experts say social distancing is an effective way to slow the virus’s spread and ensure public health facilities are not overwhelmed. The practice means refraining from gathering in groups and keeping a 6-foot distance from other people when possible.

Related: Coronavirus: No drinking after 9 in St. Petersburg; Tampa bars and restaurants must close at 10

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