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City: Local state of Emergency would provide no benefit for now

By Staff | Mar 19, 2020

The city of Cape Coral had not declared a State of Local Emergency — and for good reason, officials said Thursday.

“The challenge of COVID-19 is unprecedented and at this time a declaration of a local state of emergency in Cape Coral provides no benefit to the community,” officials said in a status update report issued early Thursday evening. “A declaration in the City of Cape Coral allows for the authority to direct an evacuation, obligate emergency expenditures, authorizes access to private property for debris removal and emergency vehicle access, a possible curfew or limit on alcohol sales. Lee County, the State, and the President have made declarations, which ensures the County is eligible for federal disaster funds. There also is a substantial cost to the City if/when a declaration is made, which could be an extended period of time during the COVID-19 crisis.”

The release also cited how Florida’s counties have been designated.

“All Florida counties have been designated for Category B (emergency protective measures) under the Public Assistance (PA) program. Eligible applicants for the PA program are state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, clinics and emergency medical providers,” officials said.

At this time, any benefits do not outweigh the costs, officials said.

“It also has a significant cost to the City and can affect staffing of first responders,” the city’s Wednesday evening update said. “At this time, there is no added value to residents by declaring a local state of emergency. Lee County and the State of Florida have declared a state of emergency.”

A declaration of a local state of emergency in Cape Coral would basically allow for a curfew, a limit on alcohol sales and/or changes in certain procurement procedures.

Lee County, meanwhile, has declared a local state of emergency to ensure the county is eligible for federal disaster funds, which have been made available due to President Trump’s declaration of a state of national emergency.

Fort Myers Beach Town Council has done so as well.

Other updates:

* Cape Coral coronavirus mobile collection point

Lee Health announced Thursday there will be a second mobile coronavirus test site in Lee County, this time in Cape Coral.

The collection point will be at the Cape Coral Sports Complex at 1510 Sports Blvd.

Officials at Lee Health said the second site will be open on Friday, and that patients still will need an order for their physician or provider and to make an appointment before showing up to the collection site.

More details on the site will be provided Friday.

* By the numbers

As of 6 p.m. Thursday, 42 additional positive COVID-19 cases in Florida were confirmed in the newest daily update, bringing the total to 432.

Of those 432 cases, 393 are Florida residents and 39 positive cases in non-Florida residents tested in the state. There was on newly reported death in Duval County.

In Lee County, there have been 11 positive tests of coronavirus, nine of them being Florida residents.

As of Thursday, Lee Health reported a total of four patients at one hospital in their care with coronavirus, two of whom are in serious condition, two in “fair” condition. Overall, there have been eight positive tests to come from Lee Health facilities out of 309 specimens sent for testing. Lee Health does not perform testing in-house at this time, but is looking into that option, said Lee Health COO Dr. Scott Nygaard.

As of late Thursday afternoon, according to the CDC, there were 10,422 positive cases in the United States with 150 total deaths. All 50 states have reported a positive test, as has the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Out of the national cases, 290 are travel-related, 310 due to close contact and 9,842 currently under investigation.

Florida ranks No. 5 in the U.S. for total positive cases, behind New York, New Jersey, California and Washington state.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage at www.floridahealthcovid19.gov.

For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), visit the CDC COVID-19 website at www.CDC.gov/coronavirus.

* Local grocers adjusting hours

WalMart, from March 24 through April 28, will be open from 7 a.m. and close at 8:30 p.m.

Every Tuesday, there will be a “senior” hour at most locations, where only those 60 and older will be able to shop.

The store will continue limits on paper products and will add milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food to the list of items they will regulate.

Publix announced that beginning next week, they will add senior shopping hours to all of their locations.

Customers ages 65 and over on Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be able to shop without large crowds from 7 to 8 a.m.

Regular store hours will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Winn-Dixie announced designated hours for seniors and high-risk customers Monday though Friday at all stores, from 8 to 9 a.m.

* Library systems adjusting

While Lee County Library locations remain closed, materials may be returned at any library location using the exterior book returns.

Other adjustments and reminders regarding library services include:

* Due dates for all physical items have been extended and requested materials will be held at library locations until they reopen. There will be no fines charged for days the libraries are closed.

* Library card expiration dates have been extended to ensure access to online services available at www.leelibrary.net

* Telephone Reference staff is available to provide assistance 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday by calling 239-533-4636.

* The Library System’s downloadable books, streaming video and other online content is available 24/7 at www.leelibrary.net.

* State Attorney reverting to teleworking

Effective immediately, the State Attorney’s Office will be reverting to teleworking through March 27, due to COVID-19 and the resulting administrative orders issued by the Florida Supreme Court and the 20th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge, that have severely restricted court room events.

“Our prosecutors will continue to perform essential court functions as outlined by the Supreme Court and our Chief Judge. To keep our staff and the community we serve safe, we prepared in advance to telework, and have implemented this plan. I want to thank the members of our staff for their hard work and dedication to keeping our community safe during this challenging time,” said State Attorney Fox, in a release.

The State Attorney’s Office remains open. For the continued safety of its staff and the constituents we serve, the State Attorney’s Office is limiting personal interaction with members of the public. To schedule a telephonic meeting with a member of our team, call 239-533-1000.

* County Clerk limiting public access

The Lee County Clerk of Courts is limiting public access to all Clerk of Courts customer service counters beginning Thursday, March 19. The office will re-evaluate public access on Friday, April 3.

The Clerk’s Offices in Bonita Springs and Cape Coral are closed effective Friday, March 20, and until further notice; all services are moved to the downtown Fort Myers Clerks office locations.

Continue to check www.LeeClerk.org for the latest updates. Call the office at 239-533-5000 for questions regarding essential or critical services. Clerk of Court employees will continue to report to work as scheduled. They will assist customers through non face-to-face methods as much as possible. The office’s goal is to comply with the CDC protocols to stop the advance of the Coronavirus including social distancing, officials said.

The lobby will be open for customers to drop-off documents and payments. If the lobby has more than 10 people or you are unable to stand 3-6 feet away from others, they ask that you consider returning at another time.

If you are exhibiting any Coronavirus symptoms, please refrain from visiting any offices.

Instead use online services or call the office to learn about other options.

The Clerk’s Office advises that if your presence is requested in court while you are still exhibiting symptoms, to make all appropriate arrangements to excuse your attendance.

Visit www.LeeClerk.org for daily updates and online services.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj