Sanibel Has Two Confirmed Virus Cases; City Striving to Protect Residents

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.

Comments (6)

  1. Georgianne Nienaber

    Excellent journalism! You have answered the questions many of us have been asking. I, too, appalled by the residents who are still not observing distancing, and the sale of alcohol for onsite consumption is beyond the pale. Please continue to keep us informed. God bless you and all of us as we stand firm as a community.

  2. Carolyn Palchak

    Keep up the good work! Staying informed about local news is important- now more than ever.
    Thanks for sending out the updates.
    Carolyn Palchak

  3. Georgianne Nienaber

    Another thought. Two actually. Sanibel residents have the right to be informed of the forensic epidemiological investigations of these two patients. By this I mean we need to know what businesses they frequented so we can make informed decisions about precautions. Secondly, when the Lee Memorial Bloodmobile was at the Rec center on March 19, and after hearing of the great need for donations, I went to donate. I left after 15 minutes after observing no protocols in place. No social distancing, no masks, no gloves on intake person, recycled pens and clipboards. I sent note to City of Sanibel, but received no reply. Question? Is Lee Memorial Health System in position to spread COVID-19?

  4. I agree. We need to know where these people have been on the island.

  5. As long as touristy gift shops remain open, sidewalk sales in Periwinkle Place and Tahiti Gardens continue and people gathered on benches outside of restaurants waiting for take out flourish we are all in danger. Sanibel is all about the retail, right? As long as visitors stay at least 7 days all are welcome. Does that even make sense?

  6. Patricia Parry

    What are social distancing restrictions on condominium pools? Some pools are crowded with people not adhering to safe practices. We are all at risk of transmission unless ALL aspects of social distancing are carried out in our neighborhoods, public places, and private condominium gathering spots.

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