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CORONAVIRUS: How will Sheriff's Office enforce stay-at-home order?

Annie Blanks
Pensacola News Journal

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Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson says he is not planning on arresting people who leave their homes or drive on the streets the governor's stay-at-home order, but his deputies will be working to ensure public gatherings stay small and social distancing guidelines are followed.

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The stay at home order took affect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. and is scheduled to last through April 30, unless it is extended.

The sheriff met with Santa Rosa County leaders in a closed-door policy group meeting Thursday morning to discuss how the county will enforce the order and what additional measures, if any, they plan to take on top of Gov. Ron DeSantis' mandate.

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“After everything was said and done, the parks are going to stay open, boat ramps will stay open, and we’re just going to put out that people need to stay home unless they need to leave the house for something,” Johnson said.

DeSantis announced last Wednesday that he would be issuing a stay-at-home order for Florida's 23 million residents, prohibiting non-essential movement by citizens outside of their homes.

Essential businesses that will remain open include grocery stores, hardware stores, pet stores, restaurants offering to-go options, gun shops, car dealerships and more.

Johnson said his deputies weren't planning on stopping people to ask what they are doing or where they are going, but would be sending out the message that any non-essential travel outside of the house is against the rules.

“If one of my deputies is driving down U.S. 98 and he looks over at Navarre Park and there are 20 people under the pavilion sitting at picnic tables, he’s going to go over there and explain to them that you can’t do this, you need to separate, there are no parties bigger than 10 people,” Johnson said. “If there’s a hard-headed person that’s like, ‘look, I’m going to do what I want,’ then yeah, we’ll have to do something, but we’re not anticipating that really.

“I think that everybody wants the same end for this,” he continued. “We want it over as fast as possible so life can get back to normal.”

Annie Blanks can be reached at ablanks@pnj.com or 850-435-8632.