by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Florida Department of Health only provides case details such as age, gender, resident status and travel by county. The reports only indicate the number of cases by city.
Sanibel has two confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to a report released March 25 by the Florida Department of Health. City Council met in a four-hour special meeting that morning to extend its local state of emergency declaration and fully vet options to keep the community safe.
“I’ve tried to take the necessary steps to keep our community secure and make sure we are the least effected as possible,” said Ruane, who expressed the protection of residents is the city’s number one goal.
Last week, the city declared a state of local emergency and began taking steps to prevent the spread of the virus on the island. Those actions include restricting beach and pool furniture at island accommodations, as well as closing beach parking lots and the public boat ramp to non-residents, canceling special event permits and modifying operations at city hall.
Yesterday, the city issued a proclamation restricting the farmer’s market from selling any non-food items, rental of accommodations to transient guests and alcohol sales for on-premise consumption. These were identified as the three greatest issues on the island. Ruane said there are still many more restrictions that can be deployed, but it’s a balancing act between the security of residents and the resources of the island.
“I think we need to take away the supply (to remove the demand), as painful as it might be,” said Ruane. He added that he was “appalled” by the island resorts that continue to serve alcohol after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order last week prohibiting on-premise alcohol sales.
The council’s concern over the safety of the island follows the recent announcement by DeSantis that the state experienced an uptick in flights from the greater New York area, which has seen the nation’s biggest virus spike. In response, the governor issued an executive order mandating a 14-day self-quarantine period for travelers coming to Florida from airports in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The Florida DOH has reported 13 travel-related cases of the 56 cases in Lee County.
Additionally, council discussed shutting down the island, a sentiment of many islanders, but ultimately it was an action council unanimously felt was unnecessary. Sanibel Police Chief Bill Dalton told council it would be a “great challenge” with the limited number of officers, although not impossible, and agreed it would not be a “prudent decision.”
“Let us go on policing the community,” said Dalton. “We have been focused on being present in all neighborhoods and successful in taking care of the public.”
The local state of emergency declaration was extended for another seven days.