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Fort Myers Beach declares state of emergency, fifth coronavirus case reported in Lee County

March 13, 2020
Nathan Mayberg , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

With President Donald Trump having declared a pandemic and a state of emergency due to the outbreak of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, the Town of Fort Myers Beach Council declared a local state of emergency through April 13, while a fourth person tested positive for the coronavirus known as COVID-19 in Lee County.

The individual, a 77-year-old male, was tested at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers. "He remains in isolation at the hospital," said Lee Health spokesperson Pat Dolce.

His condition is considered "serious," Dolce said.

The fourth case joins a 77-year-old female who died March 5, a 77-year-old male who was admitted at the same time and is in serious condition at Gulf Coast Medical Center, and a 57-year-old male who is self isolated.

On Saturday, one of the 77-year-old males being treated at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers was pronounced dead. On Sunday, a fifth case of coronavirus in Lee County was confirmed with a 72-year-old female.

The Fort Myers Beach Council also canceled its shrimp festival scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Vice Mayor Ray Murphy also said Monday's St. Patrick's Day Parade was cancelled. In addition, the council announced that all special permits for large gatherings would be revoked including one for the Lani Kai to have a stage in order to hold fundraisers for the ADABA Shriners through performances by the Cincinnati firemen.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda said the "state of emergency is a procedural thing more than anything else." The declaration will allow the town to request emergency resources from the state if necessary, as was done during hurricanes and the worst outbreaks of red tide, Cereceda said.

Cereceda said the town would be suspending all special event permits through the next 30 days. The next town council will be able to review the situation at that time. Cereceda said the current directive from the council is to limit public gatherings to less than 250 people.

As of Sunday, Cereceda said she had not been notified that any of those in Lee County who tested positive for the coronavirus had lived in Fort Myers Beach or been in Fort Myers Beach. "I think if they had been, I would know about it," she said.

Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak said on Friday that business on the beach has been good despite the nation's coronavirus pandemic. "It's very disappointing for everybody," she said on the cancellations of this week's events. "I'm concerned for the Lion's Club, I'm concerned for our businesses. I want people to know that our businesses and beaches are open."

Liszak said that hotels and restaurants are busy. "We're packed down here," she said.

Vice Mayor Ray Murphy said the council will pay for all of the shrimp the Lion's Club bought at a cost of approximately $7,000. The shrimp will be donated to charity, he said.

Murphy said the cancellation of the shrimp festival was "huge. It's the first time ever. It's devastating to the town and the businesses. It's something as residents we look forward to each year."

Melissa Schneider, director of marketing for Lani Kai Island and Resort, said she hadn't yet heard from the town regarding the decision on its stage as of late Friday afternoon. Schneider said she "felt bad for the businesses" that will be affected by the canceling of the shrimp festival, an important booster of tourism and commerce.

Schneider said Lani Kai has remained busy, with more college students staying longer due to some colleges canceling classes.

The newest case in Lee County is the fifth of 100 confirmed cases in Florida as of March 14.

Cereceda said that people should be cautious and careful during the coronavirus outbreak. She noted that some people on Times Square were carrying hand sanitizer bottles and wiping off silverware at restaurants. While there have been a lot of cancellations at hotels, there have also been people filling up those vacancies, she said. "The most important thing is for people to recognize what they can do for themselves," Cereceda said.

The mayor said she has been using the late President John F. Kennedy's words as inspiration when asked by people what the town can do to help them or what can be done in this current emergency situation. She said the pandemic has brought out the best in some people who are going to the grocery story to purchase food and goods for elderly friends. Cereceda said on Sunday she was busy making black bean soup for an elderly friend.

"People who are in need will be impacted the most," she said. "Resources are going to be really strapped."

 
 

 

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