By Cindy Jackson
Reporter
April 20, 2020

Commissioner Danny Leeper (File Photo)

A conference call led by Commissioner Chairman Daniel Leeper with other community leaders took place at 4PM, April 20th. The call lasted about 30 minutes.

At the end of it all, Sheriff Bill Leeper perhaps expressed it best – noting that everyone on the call wants to re-open the beaches, however, no one wants to re-open the beaches until it is safe to do so.

In starting the meeting, Commissioner Danny Leeper noted that for everyone who wants the beaches open, there are just as many who want them to remain closed. He went on to say he would like to have a goal in mind and that goal is (theoretically), May 1.

City Commissioner Dr. Ross was the first to express his concerns and articulated several. Those concerns include:

• the fact that the situation continues to evolve and change
• the number of cases in Nassau County continues to rise
• adequate testing is not available in Nassau County
• no one knows for sure the effect of opening the beaches. (whereas there may be anecdotal evidence, there is no true medical data available
• the more people here, the higher is the chance for spreading the virus
• how will our beaches be monitored?
• do we want to expose Nassau County lifeguards to the virus and to carry the heavy responsibility of enforcing the guidelines that may be adopted?

Dr. Ross went on to say that while Governor DeSantis sanctioned the opening of Jax beaches, state parks remain closed, and short-term rentals are still banned.

Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel

Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel, as Director for the Florida Department of Health Nassau County said that she has not heard what the Governor plans to do with State parks. She stated that Nassau County currently has 45 cases and notes that the number of current cases continues to increase.. In addition, while more tests are available (some 1112 have been performed here), the availability of tests is still not at the level she would like to see. Before completing her status reported, Dr. Ngo-Seidel did state that Nassau County still has patients in the hospital as a result of the Corona virus.

Greg Foster Emergency Management Director, confirmed that his department is in contact with other regional communities (other than Duval County and Georgia), and reported that most are struggling with finding solutions to the same challenges facing Nassau County – including the health and well-being of lifeguards.

Unlike Jacksonville, which has a dedicated beach police force, here at Nassau County beaches, it is the lifeguards, (who are typically high school and/or college students) who are in charge of enforcing beach rules and regulations – as well as saving lives.

In his report, Sheriff Leeper shared that his department has received about 60 calls relating to people on the beach – and most of those calls were received in the area of Peters Points, Scott Road and American Beach. Deputies have responded to calls but no citations have been issued. Leeper added that as a result of schools being closed, he has four additional officers on the scene– SROs (Student Resource Officers) who are helping to patrol the beach areas.

Ty Silcox, Fernandina Beach Fire Chief, said that his department plans to move forward with a target date for beach openings being May 1 but added that just because staff may be trained and ready, by May 1, that does not mean that May 1 is the date they will be deployed.

City Manager Dale Martin

Like City Manager Dale Martin had earlier stated, he is concerned that such a decision, — using lifeguards to uphold social distancing and other protections that may be required for when Nassau County beaches do open — may be exposing them unduly. In some cases, when the lifeguards are minors, there is also an issue of parental permission.

Gil Langley, Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO, agreed with the group saying “being cautious as we move forward” is a wise approach. Langley had given a very grim report on the status of the hospitality just a few weeks ago. He did share that since the Jax beaches had opened, a number of Fernandina Beach hotels reported having received an uptick in calls looking to make reservations.

One participant in the conference call shared that he had heard “rumblings” of some sort of a “Storm the Beach” movement being discussed.

Commissioner Chip Ross (File Photo)

Before the call was ended, Dr. Ross said, almost prophetically, and this is paraphrased, that the City and County could make all sorts of plans but ultimately, it’s the Corona Virus that is in control.

The group appeared to be in agreement that until the state parks are open on the south and north end of the Island, City and County beaches should remain closed.

The City of Fernandina Beach plans to discuss the issue further at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, April 21 at 6PM and the Board of County Commissioners as it on its agenda for April 22 at 10am.

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scott inglis
scott inglis
1 year ago

Just Let us walk on the Beach! We don’t need life guards to walk on the beach.

Sharon DeLauder
Sharon DeLauder
1 year ago

Hi Cindy! Nice article, hope you are well! Your old Hagerstown friend, Sharon.

John
John
1 year ago

Please vote these power hungry morons out

don crawford
don crawford
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Your plan is the best idea posted so far.

Debra W
Debra W
1 year ago

I think it’s sad that while our brothers and sisters in Christ are dying all over the US, we are concerned with opening up the beaches. I too miss walking on the beach and hearing the ocean waves. Even more than that, I miss attending and volunteering at Church.. I miss serving God’s people. Right now there are more important things to worry about. Our nation needs to come together and pray for those who have the virus and those who may contract it. None of us are safe as long as people are being infected daily. I’m definitely not taking a chance with my health or my family’s health.

Gary Badger
Gary Badger
1 year ago

Wow! They discussed it for 30 minutes! Just about enough time for everyone to agree without dissent that the walking the beach, without chairs or umbrellas, is more likely to spread the virus than walking the sidewalk or the increasingly crowded greenway. Why are the benches still on the greenway? Where are the greenway monitors to prevent gathering at the benches? Or the parking areas? And pointing to lifeguards as the problem with enforcement? Allow beach walking. There are plenty of people with cell phones to report someone parking their butt on the sand so that legitimate enforcement personnel can chase them off, from a social distance of course.

Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet
1 year ago

Awsome example of Lemming Leaders!” Maybe” May 1st or not. Maybe we’ll just keep’em locked in their houses(cages). Maybe to fly you must submit to a blood test. Maybe to cross state lines you need to show proof of purpose of travel. Maybe walking short of 6ft will result in a citation. Warning first, jail to follow. Maybe you plan to protest we arrest you. Maybe we hear of a plan to “storm the Beach” so we teach’em no beach until your attitude improves. All of these “maybes” Gents are now real. Read the news while you still can.

Masks have no effect on C-19 was the CDC Party line back in February. Remember folks? Why? Ahhhhbecause there were no masks! 6ft was someone “idea” which now has become law. Can’t walk on the beach as this is different from the miles of Federal Dollars tax improvments on AI called bike paths, The Greenway? Centre Street? Next up The County and City Commissioners will work with you….You “may” walk between the hours of 8:00am and 8:15am but only if you are nice to us!!!!! I could care less if one individual wants to walk the beach. It is owned I thought by The People~~~~the same people who ellected our cage keepers.

Think the above is not happening? I have a wonderful Fairy Tale for you to read~~~America as it used to be before AC-1.

Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet
1 year ago

Awsome example of Lemming Leaders!” Maybe” May 1st or not. Maybe we’ll just keep’em locked in their houses(cages). Maybe to fly you must submit to a blood test. Maybe to cross state lines you need to show proof of purpose of travel. Maybe walking short of 6ft will result in a citation. Warning first, jail to follow. Maybe you plan to protest we arrest you. Maybe we hear of a plan to “storm the Beach” so we teach’em no beach until your attitude improves. All of these “maybes” Gents are now real. Read the news while you still can.

Masks have no effect on C-19 was the CDC Party line back in February. Remember folks? Why? Ahhhhbecause there were no masks! 6ft was someone “idea” which now has become law. Can’t walk on the beach as this is different from the miles of Federal Dollars tax improvments on AI called bike paths, The Greenway? Centre Street? Next up The County and City Commissioners will work with you….You “may” walk between the hours of 8:00am and 8:15am but only if you are nice to us!!!!! I could care less if one individual wants to walk the beach. It is owned I thought by The People~~~~the same people who ellected our cage keepers.

Think the above is not happening? I have a wonderful Fairy Tale for you to read~~~America as it used to be before AC-1.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 year ago

As much as I miss being on the beach, the city and county elected leaders and directors of agencies are right in keeping the beaches closed for now. When we know the facts about how the virus spreads and its timeline for doing so, it makes sense to impose restrictions until we are sure that as few people as possible are picking up the virus and spreading it to others. Having the beaches closed for another month or so is nowhere near as bad as picking up the virus and then inadvertently giving it to someone’s grandmother, who then dies of it. Re: someone’s comment about the CDC and masks, the CDC has been consistent in saying that we should not be using masks that health and front line providers need and that masks need to cover tightly on the nose and cheeks to be effective. Re: our rights being taken away, yes, they are, but it is because it takes only a few people to ruin it for everyone. I appreciate the awareness of the diminution of our rights; let’s make sure we get them all back when we get back to a new normal.

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