Council Sets COVID Protocol Guidelines for Special Events

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

In a 3-2 vote, Sanibel City Council set minimum guidelines for COVID protocols as part of special event permit applications. There were seven applications before council last week and six of them included varied COVID protocols.

“We are asking these groups to give us COVID protocols, but haven’t given them any guidance,” said Councilman John Henshaw. He wants to see event organizers require masks among non-vaccinated patrons, vendors, volunteers and event staff, and implement other effective measures.

Henshaw analyzed the proposed protocols from the six applicants and complimented the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum and the Sanibel Captiva Rotary Club. While varied, each of the organizations had adopted CDC guidelines and a mask or vaccination requirement.

Vice Mayor Richard Johnson’s initial motion reflected those protocols proposed by the applicants. It stated event organizers should require vendors be vaccinated or wear a mask, all non-vaccinated patrons wear a mask indoors and outdoors and implement other CDC prevention protocols, as well as post signs and supply masks.

But Mayor Holly Smith said she would not support the motion if it included requirements. “The word require is strong and unenforceable,” she said. “I understand the reason for this motion. We certainly want to have the safety of everyone first. But I’m not sure I can support it because of a requirement I think is not enforceable and difficult for these organizations to be tied to.”

Councilmen Henshaw acknowledged requirements could not be “policed.” But it might encourage more eligible people to become vaccinated. “There is no consequence for requiring vendors, event staff and volunteers to be vaccinated or wear a mask. It’s not erroneous or illegal, but puts a lot more emphasis on vaccinations,” he said.

City Attorney John Agnew explained that implementing a requirement is allowed, as long as it’s not community wide and is not a requirement to show proof of vaccination. And neither of those applied.

In the end, Johnson changed his motion from ‘should require’ to ‘should recommend’ in the guidelines and said he thinks it’s the responsibility of the permit holders to decide on requirements or recommendations. “We want to make sure organizations know they can always go further than these guidelines,” he said.

Smith supported the change. “I will support this because of the change. It allows flexibility and gives responsibility to these organizers,” she said.

Councilman Scott Crater voted in favor of the guidelines. Henshaw and Councilman Mike Miller voted against.

In addition to setting the CDC protocol guidelines as part of special event permit applications, council gave Interim City Manager Steve Chaipel and incoming City Manager Dana Souza the authority to approve permits for existing or grandfathered events. All new events must receive council approval.

Comments (1)

  1. Donna Jorgenson Farrell

    Since it has been shown that the vaccinated can also contract and spread Covid-19, why should those who choose not to be vaccinated be singled out for the “recommendation?”

Leave a Comment

We are interested in articulate, well-informed remarks that are relevant to the article. We welcome your advice, your criticism and your unique insights into the issues of the day. To be approved for publication, your comments should be civil and avoid name-calling. It may take up to 24 hours for your comment to appear, if it is approved.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.