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County commissioners reject Cereceda's call for shelter-in-place

March 30, 2020
Nathan Mayberg , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Lee County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to follow a strategy of educating the public and encouraging them to follow state health advisories concerning COVID-19, opting not to follow requests by Fort Myers Beach Mayor Anita Cereceda and Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello to issue a shelter in place order and close all non-essential businesses.

The commissioners approved a resolution encouraging residents to follow a state health advisory encouraging senior citizens to stay at home and for businesses to strive to have workers stay at home where possible with a goal of a 50% reduction in on-site workers. The resolution encourages social distancing and reminds people to wash their hands and use hand sanitzer.

Board Chairman Brian Hamman cited a sharp increase in domestic violence calls countywide and a concern about a mental health crisis as reasons not to invoke a shelter-in-place order. The closure of businesses in the county and the state have led to a surge in unemployment.

Hamman indicated he thought the cases seemed to be stabilizing and that the commissioners need to keep close tabs on the numbers as the test results for COVID-19 can take up to 10 days.

Social distancing is the best thing residents can do, Hamman said. "We do have to keep doing what we are doing. This is not something that government can do for you."

Hamman said staying home is the most effective way for citizens to guard against the spread of the virus, but the government is not going to be putting locks on people's doors, he said. "There is a lot of great reduction" in person-to-person contact which the public should continue to limit through at least April 30, Hamman said. "We can not let up on this."

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais noted that the county has closed its parks, beaches, all programming and the majority of county offices. He noted that many businesses and malls have closed during the pandemic.

"The message is out there. People are adhering to it," he said.

"A lot of people are making financial sacrifices," Hamman said. "I don't think now is the time to worry about dollars and cents," Hamman said.

Commissioner John Manning said he opposed the proposal of a shutdown, shelter-in-place order as it could lead to more crime as unemployment spikes and would be extremely difficult to enforce. He worried about families not being able to feed themselves if the county further closed down businesses.

Manning said the call to differentiate between essential businesses and non-essential businesses had to stop.



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