City Commissioner (and ER doctor) Chip Ross speaks out

Submitted by Commissioner Chip Ross
City of Fernandina Beach
March 22, 2020

This is an e-mail I received from a constituent:

To: Johnny Miller‎; Chip Ross
Cc:  Len Kreger
Saturday, March 21, 2020 5:00 PM
Subject: Beach Closures

Mr. Mayor:

Very Disappointing your beach closure.  I strongly believe you and the City Commissioners have gone too far.  Walking alone on the beach and spending time in the water are 2 of my favorite healthy exercise options in the city.  If y’all wanted to target/enforce groups on the beach as the problem, then that would have been the correct measure, not an all out ban.

I will be voting against you in the straw ballot and Mr. Chip Ross at the next election.  And I do vote.

Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Chip Ross

My reply:

Thank you for your e-mail and thoughts. Here is what I hope.

#1 I am alive in November so that you can cast a ballot against me. I work in the local Emergency Department as a physician. Based on the experience of other countries, if this virus continues to spread, when I go to work, I and all the other health care providers have a significant chance of contracting the virus. In parts of Italy 10% of the doctors got sick. Some died. Because of my age alone, if I contract the virus, I have a 10% chance of dying according to many of the models.

#2 You are alive to vote against me. If you are over 65 and contract the virus, according to many models, you have a 10% chance of dying, if hospitals can get the appropriate number of ventilators and health care personal to take care of you.

#3 There is an election. That will mean that the threat of the virus has receded and life is mostly back to normal. Mr. Kreger and Mr. Lednovich will be in the straw poll for Mayor. All 5 City Commissioners supported closing the beaches, therefore it appears, if given the opportunity, you will not be voting for a Mayor in the straw poll.

I would like to share with you a face book page from friends who are living in Italy who recently moved there from Fernandina Beach.

Georgia to our north and Duval County to our south have closed their beaches. On Saturday morning I visited Seaside Park and Main Beach. Beach goers were pouring onto the beach with the amount of people doubling on the beach every 2 hours. From my informal poll of multiple people entering the beach [standing at least 6 feet away] most were from elsewhere. Large signs stated stay 6 feet apart. They were largely ignored. It was estimated that 9,000 people were on the City beaches last weekend. This is not social distancing.

I would also like to share with you the following graph from Stanford University concerning Florida. For full details go to

What these graphs show is that if Florida citizens and visitors do strict social distancing, meaning staying home except to go out for work, food and other necessities we should have little loss of life. If we follow your plan, the hospital will be overwhelmed and a lot of people will die. If you have different information please let me know.

If you have any further thoughts, please let me know. I can be reached at [email protected]

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Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_56850)
3 years ago

Well said. Let’s hope those that have taken so much for granted for so long understand the consequences of not listening – and taking responsible actions. And, Doc – Thanks for all you do, as an informed and active Commissioner and inside and outside our Hospital.

Mike Whiffen
Mike Whiffen (@guest_56857)
3 years ago

Thank you Commissioner/ Dr. Ross for the enlightening and sobering information you provide. A little bit of inconvenience right now in the interest of what is best for our society as a whole is in order. I have no problem with that. I can go to the beach another day, when we are past this event. The sidewalks, bike paths, and streets are still available for those who want to get outdoors. This down-time is also a opportunity for people to spend quality time at home with their loved ones, catch up on projects, reading, etc.

Trudie Richards
Trudie Richards (@guest_56852)
3 years ago

What he said.

Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet (@guest_56853)
3 years ago

Thank you chip for what is solid information however I suspect the majority will just ignore the realities. I strongly recommend for folks to watch Governor DeSantis Public Announcement last night. This was the first mention of isolation Center to be considered. For those of you who may not be informed, and isolation Center is a very nice word for a morgue. You test positive some go there if you are in an age category, essential to society and not have any pre-existing medical conditions then perhaps you go to a hospital for limited Services.

Closing the beaches at least we’ll clear this island of Spring Breakers and tourists. I don’t understand why in the face of a potential hurricane the Nassau County emergency response experts close the island telling everybody to evacuate. The reverse should be true now with essential Services personnel and residents advised to shelter in place on the island and the island closed. Close to all who do not live here.

We are in an extremely unique situation as there are but two roads on or off this island. A couple of bulldozers and deputized individuals who have had Firearms instructions and are license to carry to supplement Nassau County Sheriff’s officers and or Fernandina Police Department. Sure it’s not the ultimate solution but boy oh boy a couple of months from now people are going to look back on this and say why didn’t we do…. I fear government in general are like deer in the Headlights with the paralysis of analysis.

I look forward to November and the hopes that I am still here with whatever family members I have left. Wake up people

Mike McClane
Mike McClane (@guest_56868)
3 years ago

I agree that the island should be closed. Only residents and those with a legitimate reason I.e. essential services such as medical & food delivery should have access. I think it’s unfortunate that some forgo the common good for selfish reasons.

Alexandra Lajoux
Alexandra Lajoux (@guest_56854)
3 years ago

Dr. Ross, You are a blessing to this community–not only as an emergency care doctor, but also as an engaged and wise commissioner. You have my prayers and my vote.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
3 years ago

I so appreciate Dr. Ross’s expansive perspective and desire to take a proactive approach to dealing with this pandemic. Much of the negative consequences we are seeing could have been avoided, especially the economic ones, if we had had legislators aiming to ensure that workers earned living wages, were not saddled with debt, had accessible and affordable health care, had a robust unemployment system, etc. And what about Project Predict, started under the GW Bush administration, as a globally-cooperative effort to understand and prevent zoonotic diseases, but dumped by Trump? Robbing poor Peter to pay already-wealthy Paul has got us in this situation, and only deep change in our economic system (read: democratic socialism) will get us out if it and prevent more of the same.

Francesca Caramagno
Francesca Caramagno (@guest_56859)
3 years ago

sure it’s hard to see beaches off limits but what is important here is not losing your exercise or pleasure BUT keeping people from dying. Period

j griffith
j griffith (@guest_56861)
3 years ago

It is often difficult to identify the right course of action in the case of an emergency. Cheers to Commissioner Ross for thinking smart and right for the good of the entire community.

Peggy Roselle
Peggy Roselle (@guest_56864)
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing this Dr Ross. Hopefully people will listen to your message. I am so tired of reading comments from people who selfishly see the beach closures as punishment instead a message to people to go home, stay home and do their part to fight this war. We appreciate all you do as a physician and as a commissioner standing up for the community.

Gary Badger
Gary Badger (@guest_56866)
3 years ago

I must agree with the constituent that banning public access is over the top. The constituent mentions enforcement of groups and space and your response was that people ignored signs. That is not what is meant by enforcement. A ban on laying out towels and chairs, but allowing walking about and swimming would make more sense, completely goes with DeSantis’ edict and possibly allow you to keep your commissioner chair. It doesn’t help matters to let the ‘haves’ with beach property get sand in their toes while banning the ‘have-nots’. You have people patrolling the beach accesses, put them in a golf cart on the beach and tell them to keep people moving.

Eric Bartelt
Eric Bartelt(@ericbarteltgmail-com)
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Badger

Beach front property owners are prohibited from the beach just like everyone else.

Gary Badger
Gary Badger (@guest_56883)
3 years ago
Reply to  Eric Bartelt

From PUBLIC beach. No one is going to chase you back inside for watching a sunrise with you toes in the sand.

Cheryl Grant
Cheryl Grant(@cheryl-grant)
3 years ago

Dr. Ross, my family and many neighbors greatly appreciate your service to our community. Everyone would love the beaches to remain open but this had to be done. Why? Because compliance doesn’t mean “them.” Death doesn’t mean them. Everyone who is whining about these inconviences don’t understand what is REALLY going on. You (and these changes everywhere) are protecting them from themselves. That’s a tough pill to swallow. With gratitude, thank you for protecting us.

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy (@guest_56871)
3 years ago

Dr. Ross thank you, my sister is a medical practitioner in Boston, when I spoke with her yesterday (Saturday) she said take the number of people that you hear are sick and multiply by 10. That is the true amount of people they are seeing. They are not testing because there are no kits available. Therefore a false sense that it’s not that bad. Protective gear is now shared by healthcare workers. This is real and it could happen in our neck of the woods if we do not listen to reason and stay inside for a few weeks.

Patty Sorensen
Patty Sorensen (@guest_56872)
3 years ago

I liked your article and although I was against the City for closing the beaches, I understand now because of your article. I would like to ask you a question as a you are a doctor and an informed politician – Nassua County has only one reported case of COVID-19, but that is because only 20 people have been tested.

Why has Nassau County tested only 20 people?
Why have there been so few tested?
Do we have enough tests?
Are the tests available?

Jim Swaringen
Jim Swaringen (@guest_56874)
3 years ago

Thank you for your response to someone who apparently has no concern for anyone other than herself. Frankly, I am wondering what the parents of the Spring Breakers are thinking. They are the ones supporting their children. They are the ones who should have told their children to come home and be quarantined at home as the rest of the family is. The fact that these supposed higher educated young people are acting like complete spoiled idiots is beyond me and a host of other older residents. Time for reality to kick in.

Patty Sorensen
Patty Sorensen (@guest_56876)
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Swaringen

I am concerned about everyone, that is why I asked the questions about testing. Concerned especially about, health care workers. The more testing done the faster we will know what type of “curve” we are dealing with. We owe our health care workers, family, friends, to follow all the guidelines set by our governmentS (city, county and federal).

Tom Yankus
Tom Yankus (@guest_56880)
3 years ago

After all that has transpired in recent days my wife Dr. Annie and I have moved away from “don’t take our beach rights away” to thinking it may be time to quarantine our island. How so? Why so? As Key West did yesterday in blocking tourists and non-essential visitors from entering (Monroe County/The Keys have NO known Coronavirus cases and the same as our island here today) the Shave Bridge and by the fishing bridge (South we have a natural way to protect our residents. I know that this is a hardship for so many BUT life is more important. We trust you sir as a medical doctor. Dr. Annie and Tom Yankus.

Teri D. Springer
Teri D. Springer (@guest_56891)
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Yankus

Actually, the Keys have one identified case BUT, Key West is isolated and took the extremely intelligent step of closing access and evicting all non-residents. Only residents and essential services are now allowed in. And the residents, even the ones whose SOLE source of income is tourists, are thrilled. One of my best friends owns multiple rentals that were booked solid for the year. She has had to refund deposits up through the end of April so far and she’s prepared to refund as long as necessary….keeping her friends and neighbors, as well as herself and her husband, alive is the priority.

Had our leadership taken the same steps here, closing the beach would not have been necessary. That said, it was necessary…, when is downtown closing?? Seems to me that, not closing EVERYTHING except grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations (and limiting people inside to allow safe distances) is akin to using a strainer to stop a flood.

Laura Kujawski
Laura Kujawski (@guest_56881)
3 years ago

My daughter is an ER doctor at UF Health who is as grim as I’ve ever seen her. She doesn’t have protective equipment and is reluctant to see me as I’m high risk. I’ll happily stay inside. Life is precious. My personal survival means I need to take precautions as outlined by public health. I hope that means I’ll be able to walk on the beaches in the future

Diana Herman
Diana Herman (@guest_56882)
3 years ago

I believe the letter writer who enjoys exercising and swimming in our ocean (like so many of us do) forgets this is an actual pandemic–it’s not just about YOU.

Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet (@guest_56887)
3 years ago

I replied to these posts early last week explaining a few front end loaders, law enforcement personal at two bridges, proof of residence or “essencal services”(yes it will take a week or three to sort out) supported by deputized individuals who have license to carry training (and there are plenty on this island) and what do you end up with? Quarantine. Oh just as with all these Executive “Orders” allow 48 hours notice for those who wish to leave. Beach problems solved. Social distancing observed. Hospital stress greatly reduced. Questions? I am sure.

No people it will not happen due to “tourist hardships”. Most just do not get it.

Tim Lucey
Tim Lucey (@guest_56889)
3 years ago

Thank you Chip. Unfortunately there are many people out there, young and old that are just not understanding the seriousness of this disease. Thank you for all that you and the city are doing during this unprecedented time in all of our lives. God Bless you and the City of Fernandina Beach.

Dan Agronow
Dan Agronow (@guest_56895)
3 years ago

Thank you Chip for the thoughtful reply and for your ER service. You have my vote come November. I agree with the decision to close the beaches to reduce the possible community spread with the subsequent result of the Spring Breakers going home (to hopefully self quarantine).

Barbara Hill
Barbara Hill (@guest_56897)
3 years ago

I love walking on the beach; however, during this critical time WE NEED TO STAY HOME!

Pat Taylor
Pat Taylor(@navymom09)
3 years ago

Another thoughtful & informative communication from a treasure (and realist) in our community. We are blessed to have Dr. Ross among us! Thankful … as we all here should be.

Christine Harmon
Christine Harmon (@guest_56899)
3 years ago

Dr. Ross, and his fellow City Commissioners. took a difficult action when they closed the beaches. Certainly, they knew they would face hostile comments from people who place their personal wants before the welfare of the community. They did so anyway in an effort to protect all of us. So, to all the whiners, I say, “Suck it up! You are banned from the beach for a few weeks. This does not equate with enduring the Bataan Death March. You can do this.”

Steve Cook
Steve Cook(@steve-cook)
3 years ago

I would absolutely agree that, over-reaction in cases of emergencies such as hurricanes and pandemics, is justified and much better than under-reaction. I am also an at-risk individual and am staying at home, going out just for necessities or health visits. However, I have sent an email to our commissioners suggesting a safe, alternate solution to the beach closing. I have suggested that we only open the beach in the early morning for several hours, and restrict the use to residents only (carry an ID with you). Enforce social distancing for walking and/or sitting. No crowds, no outsiders. You would get excellent compliance with the rules, impacting only the normal beach enforcement I see now. I would opine that a beach walk is safer than going downtown and equal to walking the Greenway… (hopefully our virus situation will not demand that response). Just a thought…I am curious about the response to this proposal..

Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet (@guest_56907)
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Cook

This makes total sense as it would appear from a bike ride today that the golden Hoards at all of the hotels have left. On top of that is my understanding that the Ritz in the Omni are closed totally and not accepting new guests.? Fact? Rumor?

Obviously rules for the common good make sense however let’s not set our public officials up for failure, in this case how many Beach walkovers?

Dave Lott
Dave Lott(@dave-l)
3 years ago

While it is a shame that the small number of individuals that continue to congregate and not observe social distancing cause widespread actions that affect everyone, the closure of the AI beaches is the proper action to take at this time. With the closure in other adjacent areas, leaving them open would only force more people into the area. Pictures on the news of beaches this weekend in smaller areas (not the Spring Break venues) clearly show that many people are not taking this serious. If it were just about themselves, that would be one thing but a community spread event would be a disaster. Prayers for all the medical personnel that are screening and treating those infected as they are definitely in harm’s way. Also for all the employees and business owners who have seen jobs/hours eliminated. Together we can get through this over the next several months.

Liza Blalock
Liza Blalock (@guest_56903)
3 years ago

A HUGE thank you and prayers for all healthcare workers on the frontlines during this unprecedented time. I am grateful for those of you that have been taking care of patients in the face of such grave danger. I know that the decisions that have been made regarding the health of our city residents have not been made lightly. I personally know that Dr. Ross is very centered on improving the lives of all city residents and is an extremely caring commissioner, as well as an ER Doctor. He takes one held position as serious as the other. In this time of uncertainty it is my hope that we can adjust to our unease by realizing that these are temporary measures to benefit us in the long run. Yes, it is uncomfortable to not be doing the things one normally does, but if the warnings are heeded it will help with mitigating dire consequences for our residents. Our local and national government are making the best choices for us they can given the information they have. This information changes constantly as the situation unfolds globally. Dr. Ross, thank you for making an informed decision with the welfare of our residents in mind. I sincerely appreciate your guidance in trying times.

Liza Blalock

Rick Abernathy
Rick Abernathy(@rick-abernathy)
3 years ago

We can all walk on the beach later. If people would follow rules and do the right thing, we can get over this quicker. I am a resident on South Fletcher and would love to go out there, but do not mind at all waiting until the time is right. As someone in a previous post said.. “Suck it up” and I will add , “Just be mature and follow rules” Rules and Laws are made for a reason.

Mel Baskin
Mel Baskin (@guest_56921)
3 years ago

Just heard Gov. DeSantis ask people 65 and over to stay home. Maybe this will provide a break from the ER for Dr. Ross so he will be here in November for folks to vote for him.