by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
It has been one week since a new COVID-19 case has been reported on Sanibel. The total number of cases reached 41 since the first reported case in March. That is 0.5 percent of the island’s population and 0.2 percent of the 17,653 total positive cases as of Aug. 22 in Lee County.
However, a few citizens voiced concerns over the recent increase in the number of virus cases on the island – July accounted for 46 percent of the total cases. Vice Mayor Mick Denham shared a list of those concerns at Tuesday’s city council meeting and queried if the council should take any further action to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I believe as city leaders we need to respond to our citizens by having frank discussions on local situations which may contribute to the spread of the virus,” said Denham.
The list included expanding face covering requirements, more encouragement of social distancing, actions against non-compliant food establishments, safety provisions being followed at accommodations and masks in the weight room at the Sanibel Recreation Center.
“The simple fact that we are reviewing the stages of these factors will give our citizens comfort in that we are paying attention. I’m not suggesting we change these items,” said Denham.
Councilman Richard Johnson said he didn’t think the city needed to take any more action. “I will do what I can as council member, but the real responsibility of protection (against the virus) is on the individual.”
Johnson visited a couple of beach locations and observed “reasonably responsible behavior.” Denham also made visits to places around the island, such as shopping centers, restaurants and the beach, and observed widespread compliance with face coverings and social distancing.
“People seem to be taking it seriously,” said Denham. While there are “pockets” on non-compliance, the city manager has done a “good job” at following up on complaints and making sure people are educated.
“No law has a 100 percent compliance rate,” said Councilman Jason Maughan. “When we see success, we don’t need to look for problems…It’s up to you citizens to do your part in stopping the spread of the virus.”
Councilwoman Holly Smith addressed safety precautions at hotels, motels and vacation rentals. She said hoteliers are “self-regulating, making sure they are taking appropriate measures and informing all of their guests to adhere to our standards.” She also reported the hoteliers had a more successful July compared to the same month in previous years.
Council also took a moment to address a few concerns over face coverings being optional in the weight room at the Sanibel Recreation Center. Smith said she didn’t see any reason to make any changes in that area and “people can choose not to go.”