Hillsborough County Government Begins to Turn the Dial Toward COVID-19 Reopening Efforts
Hillsborough County, Fla. (May 15, 2020) - County Administrator Mike Merrill has previously described our community's recovery effort as "dialing" toward reopening - gradually and methodically, based on the data and input of public health experts in the county. This gradual approach is the same strategy he will use to guide county government and its services toward recovery.
Since entering the first phase of Gov. Ron DeSantis' "Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step." plan, Hillsborough County government has been working toward establishing measured protocols to safely provide the services our residents depend upon.
Like so much of the world, the County traditionally provided customer service in face-to-face settings and customer walk-up transactions. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world over night. For the safety of its employees and customers, the County responded immediately by transitioning to virtual meetings, e-business technology, and telecommuting for a number of its employees without sacrificing customer service.
At this time, there is no reason to extend county government closures past today, May 15. However, this does not signal a return to pre-pandemic business as usual. The primary focus for Hillsborough County remains public safety. The County intends to:
- Keep County employees telecommuting whenever possible for the conceivable future.
- Continue conducting meetings virtually via telephonic and/or video communications technology for the foreseeable future. This includes Board of County Commissioners meetings, public hearings and workshops; Emergency Policy Group meetings; and the meetings of the various boards and councils except for quasi-judicial proceedings (zoning and land use hearings), which are anticipated to have a hybrid (in-person and virtual) solution that will launch in late June.
- Continue limiting access to Hillsborough County facilities, including County Center, during this first phase of reopening in order to ensure there is ample time to put into effect all reasonable safety modifications and supplies to protect both county employees and residents. For details and up-to-date information regarding the phased re-opening of County facilities, visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe.
Hillsborough County reopened a majority of its nature preserves and the boat ramp at E.G. Simmons Conservation Park on Saturday, May 2. Several conservation parks, along with walking trails at six neighborhood parks, reopened on Monday, May 4, to give residents additional options for recreation and exercise. Residents utilizing these parks are required to follow social distancing guidelines, and portions of the parks remain closed, including playgrounds, picnic areas, and kayak/canoe facilities.
As a reminder, residents have the ability to view and participate "virtually" in all BOCC meetings. Instructions on how to provide public comment "virtually" are available on the Speak at a Virtual Meeting page.
Hillsborough County encourages residents to continue to take these 5 steps to safeguard themselves and others:
- Seniors and individuals with a significant underlying medical condition are strongly encouraged to stay at home except when participating in essential activities and obtaining essential services and should take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- All individuals, when in public, should maximize physical distance from others.
- Avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for physical distancing.
- Cloth face coverings are recommended in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g. grocery stores and pharmacies). A how-to video on making face coverings can be found here as well as in Spanish.
- To reduce risk, the Centers for Disease Control recommends washing hands often, and regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
From the outset of the County's emergency response to COVID-19, the safety of employees, residents and businesses in our community has been the top priority. Hillsborough County, through the Office of Emergency Management, remains vigilant and continues to take appropriate action to ensure the safe re-opening of our community.
Get Connected. Stay Alert.
For more information on COVID-19, and any other potential emergency in the county visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe and sign up for the HCFL Alert system. Additionally, you can follow Hillsborough County on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor for updates. For general County information, call (813) 272-5900, the County's main information line.