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CW44 News - 7.3.2020 - Protest Movement Inviting White SupportProtest Movement Inviting White Support
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CW44 News - 7.2.2020 - AlvarezOn Tuesday, CW44 News at 10 told you Pinellas County officials decided not to take a vote on closing beaches ahead of the holiday weekend, and other than keeping a 6 foot distance from the group next to you beachgoers can look forward to a pretty relaxed weekend on the beach as far as regulations are concerned. “We’re going to have all of our officers out. We normally have a larger contingent during holiday weekends,” said Frank Hibbard, Mayor of Clearwater. “And what I’ve recommended to people is those people who are at risk need to stay home.” Mayor Hibbard expects normal record crowds this year. He points to firework displays around the Tampa Bay area being cancelled but also the threat of Covid-19 restricting many activites, ultimately pushing families back toward the beaches. “It can be a safe enjoyable weekend, we don’t have much rain in the forecast whereas Memorial Day weekend we had kind of crummy weather,” said Mayor Hibbard. But says it wasn’t the popular decision among residents. “And we’ve had a lot of people that do not want the beaches open. I’d call it 60/40 against having the beach open,” said Mayor Hibbard. Question: “Ok, so why didn’t officials decide to close them?” “So the issue is, we could close Clearwater’s beaches, but if we do that, we’re going to push all of the people that would be coming to our beach down to smaller beaches that don’t have as much capacity. So they’d be going to Honeymoon and Indian Rocks and St. Pete Beach,” said Mayor Hibbard. Given Pinellas County officials have decided to keep the beach open, the city is implementing familiar safety measures. “So what we’re doing is signage to encourage people to follow social distancing on the beach, we have additional sanitary stations where people can wash hands. Obviously the bars are closed but restaurants and other food establishments are in fact open,” said Hibbard. And if you’re worried about overcrowding, pay attention to parking. One of the ways the city regulates beach population is through parking space capacity, which also matches up closely with those distancing protocols. “Once we get to a point where we have no more public parking, that’s kind of the trigger for we also don’t have any more room on the beach,” said Mayor Hibbard. “If they use some common sense and follow all of the guidelines, I think people can have a safe, enjoyable weekend.” We also reached out to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office who says they will have an increased presence as they normally do during holiday weekends.
CW44 News - 7.1.2020 - Alvarez“I’ve never not worked a whole day in my life. I left home at 15 and I’ve always had two jobs so it was really challenging for me to get out of that work mode and to just slow myself down,” said Leah Chavie, Owner of Leah Chavie Skincare Boutique in Manatee County. Filled with passion and drive, Leah Chavie says it might be a difficult time to chase a dream but not even that could stop her. “I left Rosemont Minnesota and went to Chicago and opened my own business about 10 years ago on Halsted [Street] in Chicago,” said Chavie. With her Chicago business meeting it’s 10th anniversary, and what the year 2020 had in store, she wasn’t exactly able to celebrate. “Where I live and where my business is, is right in the heart of the city which is considered a hot zone and so that kind of brought some fear and anxiety within itself for me. You know it was just a really hard decision to step away and to step back from my business but we had no choice, you know, we had to be socially responsible and shut down. How can we practice safe skincare being so close?” And after dealing with loss and her 2nd Chicago location burning down she decided to get away for a moment. “We made a decision to pack up our car and our three dogs and to drive 19 hours to kind of escape the cold and, at that point, we just really didn’t know the intensity of everything that was happening and there was so much fear floating around,” said Chavie. But that week turned into 2 months along with a life changing decision. “It was just an interesting time and we had made the decision prior to coming back that we wanted to open this business here just… it called to me, something called to me and everything just kept opening up for us down here,” said Chavie. She beat the odds and opened up a new business on Anna Maria Island during a pandemic. “Truth be told the way that my mind was thinking was that what if Chicago doesn’t allow us to open back up anytime soon because it was such a hot spot, that we wanted to have another option,” said Chavie. She says it wasn’t easy, but was one of the best instinctive decisions she’s made. “It a scary time and nobody knows what’s going to happen, nobody knows where this is going to go if, now were seeing a resurgence. I just feel like, ‘why not’, you know. Why not try it and see what we can do,” said Chavie. And she hopes to be an inspiration to other business owners during some of the most trying times. “But you know, you learn through everything and you grow from each experience and it makes you a stronger person and a better business owner if you will. I feel, with the pandemic, that really has brought that out for a lot of people. What important, and it’s about people and relationships and respect and integrity,” said Chavie.
CW44 News - 6.30.2020 - McKeonMIKE MERRILL DOESN’T HOLD BACK DURING HIS FINAL ON CAMERA INTERVIEW AS HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY’S ADMINISTRATOR… I've learned a lot of lessons along the way. So I’m going to put it this way we’re in a war. ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THE CURRENT COVID 19 SURGE. So we’re not just fighting for for our lives we’re fighting for our livelihoods. MIKE MERRILL OFFICIALLY RETIRES TUESDAY AFTER RUNNING HILLSBOROUGH’S DAY TO DAY OPERATIONS FOR MORE THAN A DECADE. So I'd rather not because I think there is some benefit in continuity but I have no choice THE MAN WHO’S WORKED FOR THE COUNTY SINCE 1988 EXPLAINS THAT 5 YEARS AGO HE OPTED INTO A RETIREMENT PLAN THAT MAKES HIM CALL IT QUITS WITHIN THOSE 5 YEARS. So 5 years ago when I elected it I didn’t know we'd be in a pandemic now fast forward 5 years and June 30th I have to leave WITH THE SPIKE IN COVID 19 CASES… AND EYES AROUND THE COUNTRY LOOKING AT LOCAL LEADERS… A MAJORITY OF THIS INTERVIEW WITH HIM FOCUSED ON THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS…. *Put aside whatever disagreements other things that are going because the virus doesn’t care about that this is going to keep coming BUT MERRILL RAN THE COUNTY OPERATIONS THROUGH MUCH MORE THAN THIS PANDEMIC… THINK BACK TO 2010… WHEN HE FIRST GOT THE JOB TITLE. certainly getting the economy thru the recession was important THE INTERVIEW STARTS TO WRAP UP AS I ASK HIM WHAT TYPE OF LEGACY DOES HE HOPE TO LEAVE BEHIND. I wold hope that people would feel that I was fair commited and really worked hard for the community to improve EARLIER THIS MONTH COMMISSIONERS RENAMED THE PET RESOURCE CENTER AFTER HIM.... BUT WHAT SOME MAY WONDER... WHAT'S NEXT FOR WHO THE MAN WHO SERVED THE COUNTY FOR MORE THAN THREE DECADE? Sleep for a while AND HE SAYS HE'LL SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH HIS TWO PUPS AUGGIE AND SUNI. REPORTING IN HILLSBOROUGH CO PM CW 44 NEWS AT TEN.
CW44 News - 6.30.2020 - AlvarezPinellas County officials discuss beach plans ahead of fourth of July weekend “We’ve been receiving a lot of emails asking us to close the beaches,” said Ken Welch, Pinellas County Commissioner. Just 4 days ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, Pinellas County commissioners started a conversation during Tuesday’s board meeting after receiving emails from citizens to close beaches. The big question: should beaches remain open during the pandemic? “We know we have an issue with people intermixing in large groups, but we also know that indoor places are much higher risk,” said Barry Burton, Pinellas County Administrator. Miami and Fort Lauderdale beaches are among those already closing for the holiday weekend due to the virus. While the majority of commissioners mentioned they would not support the idea. “I really don’t believe the beaches are the problem,” said Kathleen Peters, Pinellas County Commissioner “I’m not in favor of closing the beach either, I think it’s counterproductive at this point,” said Pat Gerard, Pinellas County Commission Chair “I do not support that at this point but I also am concerned about having a presence on the beach and making sure we don’t have a replay of Spring Break,” said Ken Welch, Pinellas County Commissioner. They recalled Memorial Day weekend where hundreds of law enforcement officers were present along the coastline. “I’d like to see us step up enforcement in those places we know are going to be hot spots,” said Pat Gerard, Pinellas County Commission Chair. But Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says it’s not that simple. “We’ll keep an eye on it, but to do what we did before with 300 deputies, law enforcement officers every place and the amount of personnel and the costs and to try and implement that with a couple days-notice, I’m not sure we’re accomplishing anything and there will be a whole lot of push back,” said Gualtieri. He says a large enforcement presence disbursing any crowds doesn’t exactly fix the problem during a pandemic. “So now you’ve got a situation where the hotels are extremely high occupancy plus you’ve got the locals. And you start pushing people away, all you’re going to do is push them into the pools, the pool decks and the hotels,” said Gualtieri. And he’s counting on citizens to take on the task. “Where does personal responsibility come in? When do we stop holding everybody’s hand.. ‘cause either they’re going to do it or they’re not at this point,” said Gualtieri. Right now, there are no local orders that pertain to the beaches however we are still under the governors phase two order which does impact your day at the beach. Your group can be no larger than 50 people and you must still remain 6 ft. apart from other groups. Stick with CW44 News for this developing story.
CW44 News - 6.29.2020 - AlvarezPINELLAS COUNTY (CW44 News At 10) - According to a Twitter post from Baycare, for the second day in a row, Tropicana Field COVID-19 Testing site forced to turn away residents after depleting testing supplies. On Monday, June 29th, A Pinellas County COVID-19 testing site shut down after running out of tests. Hundreds of cars lined up outside of Tropicana Field, Monday morning, just before sunrise to catch their spot in line for Covid-19 testing. The site was created as a partnership between the City of St. Pete, Baycare Health System, The Florida Dept. of Health in Pinellas and Pinellas County and opened at 7:00 a.m. Testing was on a first come, first serve basis. What they didn’t expect is the overwhelming amount of cars that would show up. Just an hour after opening, the site had to be shut down after reaching capacity. CW44 News at 10 reached out to Baycare who released this statement reading in part “No one likes turning people away, but unfortunately the nation’s supply lines and laboratories capacity continue to struggle to expand fast enough to keep up with COVID-19’s spread and the increased demand for testing.”. Health officials say 357 people were tested before they made the announcement to shut the site down. Testing materials had run out. St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman responded to the shut down given the site’s partnership with the City of St. Pete. On social media he said in part "The testing capacity is disappointing. We are working with the state to bring additional, expanded testing with Saturday and evening hours to another St. Pete site ASAP." The St. Pete Police Department took to Twitter during the shut down. The department urged citizens right away to return to the site when it opens back up on Tuesday at 7:00 a.m. For more testing info, call 1-800-BAYCARE.

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