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Longboat Key Monday, Jul. 27, 2020 2 weeks ago

Longboat Key closures continue for at least two more weeks

Public beach parking, town facilities and many amenities will remain closed because of concerns about COVID-19.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Longboat Key’s COVID-19 closures and restrictions continue.

Town Manager Tom Harmer issued his latest executive order on Monday morning with no changes. It keeps the following places closed: public beach parking, town facilities to the public, the public restrooms at Bayfront Park and Joan M. Durante Park, and the town’s Bayfront Park Recreation Center.

“No changes have been made to our restrictions for the next two weeks and we will continue to monitor the conditions on a daily basis,” Harmer wrote in an email to town commissioners, Fire Chief Paul Dezzi and town attorney Maggie Mooney.

Harmer is set to re-evaluate his latest executive order on or before Aug. 10

The town first closed its 12 public beach access points in March as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and reopened in June. Harmer then closed public beach parking again on June 30.

The town of Longboat Key's 12 public beach access points reopened at the start of June, but then closed again on June 30.

Beaches to the north in Manatee County and south on Lido Key and Siesta Key are open.

Harmer has told the Longboat Observer the town’s beaches are not like larger beaches in the surrounding areas, which are larger and can accommodate more people.

Plus, about 69% of the town’s full-time population of about 7,000 residents are older than 65 years old. Older people tend to be more susceptible to problems related to COVID-19.

Longboat Key staff are waiting to see how Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Office addresses virtual meetings. The governor’s current executive order opening the door to virtual meetings is set to expire on Aug. 1. The town commission last held an in-person meeting in March, and has met virtually since April.

“Until further noticed, any upcoming Town Commission Workshops and Advisory Board Meetings/Hearings in July and August will be scheduled and publicly noticed on an as needed basis, and will be conducted using remote/virtual meeting technology subject to the Governor extending the Executive Order regarding virtual meetings,” the town's executive order states.

Because of the summer recess, the Longboat Key Town Commission is not scheduled to hold a meeting until Sept. 14.

Harmer and his staff are also continuing to monitor public health reports from Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“We are fortunate that the numbers on the Sarasota side of Longboat Key have been good - they currently show no new positives in well over 14 days,” Harmer wrote. “I have mentioned before, Manatee County reports the information in a different format and we continue to discuss with both counties a consistent reporting model for our zip code. Manatee data on the state website does indicate some recent positive test results in that portion of the island.”

As of Monday morning, the Florida Department of Health data shows Longboat Key’s 34228 ZIP code has a total of 25 positive cases of COVID-19 on the Manatee County side of the island since the pandemic began. However, the data shows fewer than five cases on the Sarasota County side.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the town adopted a mandatory mask policy with certain exemptions before the Fourth of July holiday.

“I believe our current restrictions along with the mask ordinance and recent corporate policy changes at Publix and CVS are helping us minimize impacts on the island,” Harmer wrote.

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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