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Lee County happy with public cooperation, passes emergency resolution

The beaches on the coast of Lee County remain closed amid the restrictions set by the state to stop the spread of the coronavirus. And public places, businesses and most areas also remain empty or closed. That’s all positive for what Lee County officials hoped for when they asked residents to stay home over the weekend.

The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to approve a resolution adopting measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 to the vulnerable population, limit the gathering of groups of people, limit exposure to people with cold- and flu-like symptoms and provide a means of conducting business for the workforce.

The resolution, approved in an emergency meeting, codifies concepts outlined in the Florida Surgeon General’s Public Health Advisory of March 25.

The resolution will be posted online at leegov.com.

The resolution is not a shelter-in-place order.

MORE: Read the Florida Surgeon Generals Advisory here

The Board’s resolution supplements communication campaign efforts – both ongoing and previously taken – targeting a reduction in person-to-person contact. Key messages include: social distancing, slow the spread, and stay home.

The messaging has been deployed on the county’s website, via social media, at news conferences, in videos, on billboards and other signage such as those outside stadiums. Additionally, the county has conveyed the message to people in Lee County via wireless emergency alerts to cell phones. The messaging is also part of an out-of-area marketing campaign launched through the Visitor & Convention Bureau for prospective visitors to stay home at this time.

These efforts have been carried out in tandem with partnering agencies such as the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. The county and LCSO are coordinating and monitoring jointly to identify the effectiveness of the messaging, including LCSO flight videos, deputies on foot, in boats and on all-terrain vehicles.

Additionally in last two weeks, the county has shifted many services to online portals, moved much of its workforce out of county buildings and closed libraries, parks facilities, pools, playgrounds, fishing piers, beach parks and restrooms and public lobbies. The county eliminated cash payment on its three tolls bridges and suspended fees for boat-ramp users and LeeTran bus riders.

The resolution approved Monday remains in effect until it is repealed or the State of Local Emergency expires.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners discussed the state of the virus outbreak and the county and impact it’s having in addition to the resolution. Commissioners said they were happy with the response from community members countywide.

Commissioner Frank Mann said Lee County neighbors have done well.

Ahead of the meeting, Mann said, “I think the public has done a superb job, but I believe, when we get together tomorrow morning for a meeting, I think we’re going to ask the public to do even more.”

Commissioners said there were several options on the table for them to discuss during the meeting, and it was based on on whether or not people here in Lee County are doing a good job social distancing among other guidelines to help lessen the spread of COVID-19.

“We have a mandate that we’re going to be entertaining,” Mann said. “We have a resolution, which says strong words”

Lee County Sheriff’s Office patrolled and observed the county all weekend to see if people practiced social distancing. If it was positive for good practices, the county could call for further observation before making any further decisions. If deputies gathered negative findings, commissioners could pass a stay-at-home resolution or even a stay-at-home order, which would have more depth.

Commissioner Brian Hamman posted on social media this weekend to commend Lee County neighbors for staying at home.

“What we’re trying to do is encourage residents to voluntarily stay home and help us limit the spread of COVID-19,” Hamman said. “We think that people have the ability to make good decisions for themselves.”

Commissioner Mann said the main reservations with the stay-at-home order or mandate is enforcement. He said it would be hard for law enforcement to make sure people are abiding by the order.

“I don’t know if we’re going to mandate something,” Mann said. “Because, when we mandate, part of the difficulty there is we don’t have a rule book. We don’t have a way for our officers on the street and sheriff deputies out there to be able to determine this car driving in the street, whether they have a legitimate purpose there or not.”

Mann said the county will rely on the public to continue to cooperate to make sure everyone stays safe and follows guidelines in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“Things that you used to think were so important, they’re not,” Mann said. “This is a matter of life and death we’re talking about”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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