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LCSO to be out in force on the water

By Staff | Mar 26, 2020

If you plan to go out on the water in your boat this weekend, be warned that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office will be out in full force.

In an attempt to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to keep the waterways open to boats, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno and Lee County government officials on Thursday gathered at LCSO headquarters to strongly encourage boaters to get on board with following all safety requirement to stop the spread of the illness.

The LCSO will be out on the waters this weekend to educate, enforce, and, if need be, cite or arrest violators as a way to keep others out of risk and avoid having to shut down the waterways as well.

Marceno started by giving the same message most county officials have given — to stay home unless absolutely necessary to go out.

“We don’t want to deliver a bad message, we all want to go to the beach, on the boat and go to the park, we want to live our everyday lives like this never happened,” Marceno said. “But what do we need? We need you to stay home.”

Marceno said the LCSO will be out in full force, with many assets such as school resource officers being deployed to the boat ramps and marinas, where they will hand out pamphlets and educational materials.

“We want to tell boaters we realize you want to go out on your boat, but make no mistake, we need you to listen to what we need you to do and follow the CDC guidelines,” Marceno said. “We will be in the water and in the air with helicopters to identify hot spots and address them.”

Among the precautions suggested include limiting offshore gatherings to 10 or fewer people; to refrain from “rafting” watercraft (tying boats together so passengers can pass from vessel to vessel; to self-isolate if sick; sanitize hands after fueling; avoid sharing drinks or food; and to practice social distancing.

Marceno said it’s up to the public to dictate what decisions are made. Failure to adhere to guidelines could result in further restrictions and even arrest as a last resort.

County Commissioner Brian Hamman gave data to illustrate restrictive actions taken by the county for those who have questioned whether it has been aggressive enough in actions taken.

Traffic counts are down 56 percent at the corner of Colonial and Summerlin in Fort Myers, LeeTran bus ridership is down 41 percent, the toll plazas are down 40 percent, beach hotel occupancy is down 80 percent and countywide occupancy is down 69 percent.

Hamman also said last Saturday, Southwest Florida International Airport saw a mass exodus out of Florida following the closure of beaches, making it the sixth busiest airport in the country for people leaving.

“If you’re thinking about having your buddies over or having that card game, don’t,” Hamman said.

Also addressed was the dilemma of those in the Lee County Jail (inmates and guards) and keeping them protected. Colonel James Rankine said nobody in the jails have tested positive for COVID-19 and there are plans to keep it that way.

“We have worked with our law enforcement agencies to limit those coming into our facilities and we’re trying to give notices to appear to keep the population down,” Rankine said. “We are also working with the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender to get inmates age 60 and above released in a timely manner because they hold no threat to the community.”