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Longboat Key Tuesday, Sep. 8, 2020 1 month ago

Longboat Key's COVID-19 closures continue

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Town Manager Tom Harmer issued his latest executive order on Tuesday.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Several of the town of Longboat Key’s COVID-19 closures and restrictions will continue for another two weeks.

Town Manager Tom Harmer issued his latest executive order on Tuesday afternoon, which has remained unchanged since the end of June.

It keeps the following places closed:

  • the town's 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.

“In my conversation with the Sarasota County Public Health Official, Chuck Henry, we talked about the recent downward trend in new positive test results but he highlighted the vulnerable nature of our residents and that we still have active virus in the area,” Harmer wrote in an email to town commissioners. “In today’s Sarasota County Heat Map we continue to show zero active cases on the Sarasota County portion of the island, but in the zip codes in close proximity to Longboat Key there are 141 active cases listed-just within the last 14 days.”

After the Labor Day holiday weekend, Harmer and staff will monitor the state of COVID-19 cases in light of reopening of public schools and holiday gatherings over the Labor Day weekend.

Last month, Harmer mentioned the possibility of coronavirus having a bigger impact in other parts of the counties outside of Longboat Key.

Data from the Florida Department of Health shows Longboat Key’s 34228 ZIP code has 28 cases in Manatee County, which is an increase of one case in the last several weeks. The Sarasota County side of the island has fewer than five cases, which has remained unchanged during that same timespan.

The town is also monitoring data provided by the county and state health departments after students headed back to class last month. Manatee County schools began on Aug. 17 and Sarasota County Schools started on Aug. 31.

“Now that both school districts are open, public health and emergency management staff are monitoring for a potential spike in the number of positive test results over the next couple of weeks- that impact is not just on students, also teachers, parents, grandparents, and other friends and family,” Harmer wrote. “We are monitoring that and any impact from the Labor Day weekend in our area.”

Over the last several months, Harmer has said many times he considers Longboat Key’s older population in his decision making. Among the town’s nearly 7,000 full-time residents, 69% are older than 65. State health departments throughout the country and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have acknowledged older people and people with underlying health issues tend to be more at risk to COVID-19.

"We continue to take a very thoughtful safe and balanced approach to try to limit exposure and protect our residents and will re-evaluate the conditions in two weeks,” Harmer wrote.

Harmer is set to re-evaluate his latest executive order on or before Sept. 22. He also said town staff will continue to help communicate health precautions and preventive best practices to the community, mentioning the town extending its mandatory-mask policy through Nov. 30.  

Longboat Key’s 12 public beach access points have been closed since June 30. Beaches to the north in Manatee County and south on Lido Key and Siesta Key remain open.

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.

See All Articles by Mark

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