Florida has joined the ranks of states across the nation that have issued Stay-at-Home orders in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).
Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a 30-day Stay-At-Home executive order effective April 3.
His action came just days before U.S. Surgeon Gen. Dr. Jerome Adams warned the nation that “this is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment. Only it’s not going to be localized, it’s going to be happening all over the country,” Adams said to Chris Wallace, during a Fox News program over the weekend.
The death toll from the COVID-19 virus continues to rise.
As of the afternoon of April 6, there were 330,891 cases in the United States and 8,910 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Statewide, there are 13,324 confirmed cases, including 399 non-residents; and, 236 deaths.
In Pasco County, there have been 110 cases, including four non-residents. There have been 22 hospitalizations and two deaths.
In Hillsborough County, there were a total of 571 cases, include 15 non-residents. There have been 86 hospitalizations and five deaths.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the CDC has consistently recommended that people maintain a 6-foot distance between themselves and others, and to stay at home as much as possible.
Recently, it changed its guidance regarding masks. Before, it recommended masks only for those who were sick to ensure an adequate supply for hospital staff.
Now, the CDC recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
Meanwhile, at the local level, governments are responding to the economic and medical threats posed by the deadly virus.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore organized a virtual meeting on March 31 with regional leaders from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and the cities of Tampa and Clearwater to discuss how the region can respond to the unprecedented challenges being posed by COVID-19.
The meeting didn’t yield any immediate solutions, but the leaders shared information about issues such as hospital capacity, availability of medical supplies and concerns about economic impacts from COVID-19.
Moore asked regional leaders for their thoughts about transporting patients to other counties, if the need arose.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor responded, “I think it would probably be more beneficial just to make sure that you have that overflow capacity, just in your particular area.”
Other regional leaders agreed.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard said his primary interest would be in working together regionally to figure out a way to share best practices, so individual governments don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
While Moore was reaching out regionally, Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey arranged a virtual Town Hall meeting featuring panelists including Summer Robertson representing U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, and Shahra Lambert representing Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried. Others on the panel included Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning and representatives for several county offices.
During the town hall, the speakers gave overviews on issues such as the federal government’s $2 trillion stimulus package; the school system’s current status; and, a variety of services that are available — or unavailable — at this time.
Commissioner Starkey offered words of encouragement.
“It is such an unusual time. I know when I talk to my fellow workers in government that we have never been busier. I cannot keep my phone charged,” Starkey said.
She added: “It certainly is a challenging time for all of us, but there will be an end to it, and we’ll be able to get back out and enjoy our beautiful county.”
- Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended foreclosure and eviction enforcing laws for 45 days to provide temporary relief to Floridians.
- Pasco County Public Transportation has waived fares and increased frequency of buses on the busiest routes — U.S. 19, State Road 54 and U.S. 301, to provide financial relief for those in need and increased services for workers who need to get to grocery stores, hospitals and other essential services for their jobs.
- Pasco County parks and playgrounds are closed, so residents are encouraged to find ways to exercise in their neighborhoods — while practicing social distancing.
- Some stores are opening an hour early on some days a week, to give those age 65 and older a chance to shop for essential items. Check store websites for more information.
- The deadline for paying federal taxes has been delayed until July 15. Go to the IRS website for more details.
- Pasco County senior centers for congregate meals and social activities are temporarily closed, but there are drive-thru and delivery services available.
- School campuses are closed, but school districts are providing “to go” bags for children 18 and younger. To find out more details, visit local school district websites.
- Suncoast Trail is open. Suitable for biking, walking and rollerblading. It is 42 miles long, including 22 miles in Pasco County.
- Starkey Boulevard Trail and Starkey Gap Trail are open; Pinellas Trail as of last week was still open. Trails next to U.S. 301 and State Road 56 also are open.
Please be prepared for no public access to restrooms or water fountains.
Please maintain social distancing.
Avoid bicycling in packs.
Do not use trails if you are exhibiting symptoms of illness.
Published April 08, 2020