May 14, 2020
Governor DeSantis appears to be intent upon “re-opening” the State’s economy at an aggressive pace. A concern is that his pace is too aggressive, but so far, results indicate that, at least locally, infections remain low. During a recent visit to the Fernandina Beach Airport en route to a different location, the Governor commented to Mayor Miller that the City and Nassau County were examples of good management to control the spread of the virus. The Mayor indicated that the success was due to the cooperation of the governments and regional residents. It is not yet known when Governor DeSantis will move to the next phase of his recovery effort.
Locally, the re-opening has not been difficult. With the expiration of the Governor’s Safer at Home Executive Order, nearly all City staff have returned to work (very few had not operated remotely during the month of April). City facilities still remain closed to the general public as a precaution during the first phase of the re-opening recovery. Department Directors continue to monitor staff daily, and no infections have been reported among any City staff, including public safety personnel who are forced to routinely interact closely with the public due to the nature of their jobs. Thank you to those personnel, and all other City personnel, who have worked to continue City operations relatively uninterrupted for the past two months.
The City beaches are fully opened without restrictions- it is possible to visit the beaches at any time for most any reason, as long as beach-goers maintain adequate separation and avoid large groups. On-beach parking at Seaside Park (Sadler Road) has been re-opened. All beach parking areas have been re-opened and the repair work to a portion of the Seaside Park boardwalk should be completed and full access to the associated parking lot restored this week. I have received no reports of any problems related to the beaches since the re-opening. Thank you to the community for your patience during the beach closures (very few problems were reported during that time) and your exceptional cooperation since the re-opening.
From the time many local businesses have been permitted to re-open under the direction of the Governor, downtown and other areas have drawn more visitors. Although the local State of Emergency remains in effect for the general purpose of community health, safety, and welfare, the City has not, and likely will not, impose any additional restrictions beyond the restrictions or guidelines imposed by State or, if appropriate (and I am not aware of any), County officials. Enforcement of the State restrictions, as indicated in the respective Executive Orders, is the responsibility of law enforcement. Chief Hurley has reported outstanding compliance and cooperation with local businesses. Very few complaints about business operations have been presented to City staff.
As downtown life begins to be restored, Main Street officials, led by Ms. Arlene Filkoff, are preparing for a “grand re-opening” of downtown. While the date of such a celebration has yet to be officially determined, outdoor dining and other events (all recognizing the need for appropriate social distancing) are planned. Again, thank you to those who have supported local businesses over the past two months and I hope that the support will continue and grow. Thank you also to those local businesses that have worked to operate under these unprecedented conditions.
Two other notable and traditional events are moving forward with planning: the Memorial Day commemoration and the Fourth of July celebration. I expect that those events will be conducted differently than in the past, but nonetheless, those events are part of our community culture and, at this time, I have no reason to cancel those events. Obviously, the actual conduct of those events is subject to any changes in the condition of community health. Thank you to the various veterans’ organizations and to Light Up Amelia for their cautious efforts to proceed.
When Governor DeSantis decides to move to the next phase of re-opening, business opportunities will be expanded and restored. Government meetings will likely return to the traditional setting at City Hall. Public access to those meetings may still be limited, more due to the size of the City Commission Chambers and the ongoing need for physical separation. Nearly everything remains a work in progress, but, for the most part, very few issues have developed since the public health crisis began and, if we keep a moderate pace to our recovery, few are expected in the future.
We will continue to closely follow the actions of State officials, especially if the concerns of increased infections begin to be realized. Please continue your personal protective efforts as opportunities and events return.