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Longboat Key Monday, Nov. 9, 2020 1 year ago

Longboat extends mandatory mask policy through March

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While the town of Longboat Key can't issue individual fines, it can enforce its mandatory mask policy against private businesses.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The Longboat Key Town Commission on Monday extended its mandatory mask policy through March 2021, voting 7-0.

“The town manager and I felt comfortable that was reasonable to bring back to the commission and evaluate the circumstances at the point in time,” Town Attorney Maggie Mooney. “We understand that the holidays are coming, but things are obviously changing. [The] numbers are changing. Politics are changing, and the availability or potential availably of a vaccine may change the circumstances.”

While Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended individual fines and penalties related to local mask ordinances, the town of Longboat Key can still enforce its mask policy as it relates to private businesses. Many businesses implemented their own mask policies even before the town began requiring them ahead of this year’s Independence Day holiday weekend.

“Longboat is a lot more compliant and Sarasota is a lot more compliant than a lot of other places,” District 1 Commissioner Sherry Dominick said. “And we’re fortunate in that regard, but I think we can’t keep our guard down."

Now that more snowbirds are beginning to arrive on the island, the town is planning to resume its weekly conference calls with Fire Chief Paul Dezzi to discuss best safety practices.

At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop expressed her concern about snowbirds traveling to Longboat Key and the potential of coronavirus spreading, especially considering data from the Florida Department of Health assigns cases to a ZIP code based on permanent addresses. It means if someone tested positive for COVID-19 and their address was outside the state of Florida, it would not be reflected in the state’s data.

“As we move into the Christmas and Thanksgiving season, I am more concerned that we find a better way to educate vacationers who come here because they seem to be the ones who most seldom wear masks,” Bishop said. “I also hope you’re doing a better job of educating snowbirds and I'm hoping the condo federation is providing information to their membership so that that information is getting out.”

While Longboat Key’s in-person meetings resumed in November, the town is planning to stick to a hybrid approach for at least the remainder of the year. It means only four of the seven commissioners need to be physically present for commission meetings.

Mayor Ken Schneier, Vice Mayor Mike Haycock, District 4 Commissioner Jack Daly and District 5 Commissioner Ed Zunz attended Monday’s meeting. At-Large Commissioner BJ Bishop, District 1 Commissioner Sherry Dominick and District 2 Commissioner George Spoll used Zoom to participate in Monday’s meeting. Spoll used Zoom in another room outside of the Town Hall chambers.

Data provided by the health departments in Sarasota and Manatee counties shows Longboat Key has zero active cases on the Sarasota County side of the island and eight active cases on the Manatee County side of the island.

“We’re still very fortunate, but we have seen the numbers on the Manatee County side increase,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said.

Sarasota County Department of Health administrator Chuck Henry is scheduled to participate in the town’s Dec. 7 commission meeting to answer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been very difficult to have this two-county database, which can sometimes create confusion,” Harmer said.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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