As the death toll rises and the economic meltdown continues — communities and businesses across the country grapple with impacts of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Pasco County’s priorities have been to protect the health and well-being of its residents and to get the economy back on track, as quickly as possible when the pandemic passes, said Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore, in an email.
The county’s emergency management center has been working around the clock, and the county is in constant contact with local hospitals, and state and federal agencies, Moore said.
The county also has continued to order sample and test kits, as well as personal protection equipment for first responders and health care professionals, he added.
The county also has been proactive in identifying and securing locations for hospital overflow, should it be needed, Moore said, noting it has 38 standby locations.
And, Moore noted that he recently took part in a virtual town hall with representatives of the Pasco Economic Development Council Inc., and the Florida SBDC, to provide information to businesses about resources where they can seek help, as many struggle to survive.
Another town hall is planned April 30 at 2:30 p.m., to focus on the unique challenges being experienced by the special needs community. (This will be a Zoom conference, with audio availability. Details to come). Experts will share their knowledge of best practices.
Moore also noted that although some functions of government are closed to the public, others continue to function to provide services — such as public transportation and virtual inspections.
Library buildings are closed, but online services are being offered.
The pandemic has hurt the county’s economy, and thereby county revenues. It is now reevaluating several projects, Moore said, but he did not provide specifics.
He did say “our tourism department is taking a beating right now” because it relies on tourist development taxes to fund it.
Moore also thanked residents, noting the vast majority are staying home unless they need essentials, such as food or medicine, or need to go to essential places of work.
“I suggest wearing a face covering while at the store to protect others, as well as yourself,” he said.
During a recent ZOOM virtual meeting of WOW TOO, Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey also talked about the local impacts of COVID-19.
“I think we’re very fortunate in Pasco County that we don’t have the high densities that you’re seeing in South Florida and some of the counties to the south of us. Our percentage of positives is much lower, and I think people in Pasco County are doing a great job of social distancing,” Starkey told the women’s networking group, which is part of the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.
“We tried to keep business open, as usual, in Pasco County,” she said.
“We were in the midst of transitioning some of our permitting to online; some of that won’t be done until the end of the month, unfortunately. A little bit of business, as far as development business, has come to a halt.”
Virtual inspections, however, are ongoing, she said.
“As far as our budget, we know that it’s taken a hit. Our sales tax has taken a hit,” she said. “We’re reanalyzing what our budget is going to look like for next year.
“We’ve got a little bit of a freeze on, as far as hiring,” she said, noting that the county wants to be sure that it is as efficient as possible.
“We hesitated at doing the Stay at Home, Safer at Home, because the Pasco County numbers were pretty darn good, and people were being, I think, mostly respectful of the 6-foot distance, and not congregating in big numbers,” Starkey said.
“We wanted our businesses to be able to stay in business as long as possible.
“We know that this is hurting a lot of people,” she said.
But, even with the governor’s Stay at Home order, there are some things that are open, Starkey noted.
For instance, people can use Starkey Wilderness Park. “You can walk and hike in the park,” she said, but you can’t drive there — you’ll need to find a place to park nearby.
There are also U-Pick farms open, where people can pick blueberries or peaches.
Starkey is encouraging county residents and businesses to do what they can to support local restaurants.
Published April 22, 2020