JOINT STATEMENT RELATED TO MONROE COUNTY POLICIES TO DECREASE SPREAD OF COVID-19
March 19, 2020
To: Mr. Roman Gastesi, Monroe County Administrator and Board of County Commissioners:
Medical professionals and our hospital are bracing for the potential large numbers of our residents who become infected with COVID-19. We are informed that medical supplies and lack of capacity to care for the sick are issues of concern. Reducing the potential spread is the highest priority here and across the U.S.
Testing for the virus remains extremely limited with testing kits not yet widely available in Monroe County as of today. Medical experts continue to report that the number of confirmed cases will increase nationally and locally. Federal and State authorities are advising that everyone continue to “GET SERIOUS ABOUT SOCIA-DISTANCING.” The most important thing we can do is minimize the spread of the virus (and carriers are currently unknown).
The CDC advises to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. With the closure of beaches, restaurants, bars and cruise ships on the mainland, tourists have been driving to the Florida Keys in large numbers as an alternative for vacation. This is further endangering the spread of the virus and OUR RESIDENTS. Service workers can’t protect themselves by utilizing “social-distancing” when serving customers at restaurants. And many of our workers live in close quarters, roommate situations or with others such that self-quarantining is not practical or possible. Because of this, a temporary closure of this business activity, although a very difficult decision, is the right decision for our community. Our local government can monitor this on a daily basis and adjust the closure of facilities appropriately.
To date, Monroe County exposes our residents to increased risk by not taking appropriate cautionary measures to protect against the spread of the virus. The County has refused to close beaches and parks which is attracting large crowds. The County allows restaurants to remain open for inside seating inviting large numbers of people inside these facilities. No one knows the impact that these County policies will have on the spread of the virus.
Monroe County should not continue to promote tourism in the Florida Keys until it is advised safe to do so by medical professionals who are qualified to do so. Yet, Monroe County continues as of today to promote tourism. Therefore, Monroe County should immediately close parks, beaches, inside seating in restaurants and other measures to reduce this risk and follow the lead of the City of Key West on these closures to protect the public.
We need the County to take appropriate action! The government at all levels should be working together to protect the public. In addition, the County must lead on coordinating services for those most vulnerable with special needs and coordinating plans for those who need to be quarantined.
MONROE COUNTY NEEDS TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT SOCIAL DISTANCING AND DECREASING THE SPREAD OF COVID-19.
Sam Kaufman, Vice Mayor, City of Key West
Harry Bethel, Former City Commissioner, City of Key West