Friday, March 27 saw the Collier County Commissioners convene in but another special session to discuss the crisis concerning the Corona Virus and its impact on the County. Commission Chairman Burt Saunders would call the meeting in an effort to see if the Commission would possibly vote on essentially shutting the county down to all but essential services.
The county would be taking extraordinary measures to insureattendees were practicing the social distancing as prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control, therefore limiting the numbers of attendees in the Commission Chambers, while others would practice the CDC guidelines in the hallways and in a 5th floor chamber. The public would be able to speak and would be called into the 3rd floor Commission Chambers when their names were called.
Conspicuously absent was Commission Chairman Saunders himself, who would join the meeting by telephone, as well as Commissioner Fiala agreeing this would meet safe distancing measures on the board.
Representatives from the healthcare industry as well as county business leaders and citizens would have an opportunity to air their concerns and answer questions from commissioners in the room or over the phone.
Should the county have passed the legislation drafted on Saunders request all non-essential travel would have been limited. Members of the public would have been able to still visit grocery stores, pharmacies and their healthcare providers. Other, nonessential businesses would have been required to shutter their businesses.
Already, restaurants, bars, clubs and beaches have been closed to the public. Take-out is still allowed, but no dine-in consumption is allowed. The Governor in a press conference earlier in the week deferred adding a “shelter in place,” requirement. He instead chose to not impose that restriction on Floridians but did not rule out imposing a county by county order if he felt that became necessary, and instead deferred the more stringent restrictions to both counties and municipalities as they saw fit in the short term.
Saunders would defend his actions by saying, “we have to flatten that curve and protect the people that are out there protecting us,” said Saunders by phone. He would be referring to the increasing numbers of identified individuals infected by the virus. Collier has now seen their numbers rise to 81 confirmed cases since the first one was identified on Mach 11. Marco Island has now had one confirmed case which is receiving hospital care as of March 27.
Kathleen Marr who is with the Florida State Department of Health testified today that the numbers of “community-transmitted cases,” have now out numbered the “travel-related cases.” This showed it is being now passed between residents within the community.
Dr. Zubin Pachori, a managing partner with the Premier Impatient Partners urged commissioners to “pass the restrictions or face a disaster.” Said Pachori. To date there have been no fatalities from the coronavirus in Collier County, however Lee county has announced 5 deaths related to the virus.
State Representative Byron Donaldson and Bob Rommel both questioned whether the commissioners had the authority to enact such legislation. Rommel would passionately warn about “stomping” on individual civil liberties. “Because we think we’re going to save, you know, people’s lives,” said Rommel.
Sheriff Kevin Rambosk would testify that his office has observed the traffic flows in and around the county to have subsided considerably. “People are listening,” said Rambosk. He would also comment that his office would be working with their state partners to insure the issues out at Keewaydin Island would be being addressed this weekend. Rambosk would go on to compliment Collier County residents for their adherence overall regarding their adherence to the Governor’s and the Commissioners policies enacted to date.
One concern which did trouble commissioners laid with what Lee County might do at their upcoming meeting next week. What would the impact be on Collier County should they enact a shutdown in that county? Commissioners agreed they would re-evaluate their actions after the Lee Commissioners’ meeting on Monday.
Commissioners would vote 5-0 not to approve the measure before them. However, Commission Chairman Saunders voted with the majority as a sign of unanimity with his fellow commission members but will wait to determine future proposals after the Monday meeting of Lee Commissioners.