July 2, 2020

Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 is surging in central Florida.  In Seminole County alone, fewer than 20% of hospital beds are available for all patients.  Furthermore, patients with COVID must be separated from other patients, and these patients require more nurses and a segregation of hospital resources.  This rapid increase in hospitalizations could cause hospitals to be quickly overwhelmed.  This is exactly the circumstance that the CEO’s of all the hospitals in Seminole County shared with the Seminole County Emergency Management group last week.

When a State of Emergency is declared, the Seminole County Emergency Management Director looks to the emergency management executive policy group for recommendations and advice regarding emergency policy measures and directives.  The executive policy group includes professionals specifically trained and experienced in policy development and trained in emergency management disciplines.  These individuals include the County Chairman, the County Manager, County Attorney, the Seminole County Sheriff, the Florida Department of Health, the Seminole County Medical Director, the Seminole County Emergency Management chief administrator, and the Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools. Additionally, Seminole County Emergency Management Director regularly communicates with the designated emergency management directors for the seven cities in Seminole County, which are typically the city managers, for input and comment on potential policy directives.  These are the professionals who the County and each of the cities have designated to make good decisions for all of us without the influence of politics. 

Under Chapter 252 of Florida Statutes, the Seminole County Emergency Management Director is charged with making apolitical decisions to implement emergency safety measures while we are under a State of Emergency.  The decisions are not permanent; they are decisions effective only during the State of Emergency to address public safety.  This is a not new group.  For decades now, the Emergency Management group has guided us through hurricanes and our recovery from them.  This emergency management process was established via a County ordinance, providing for public comment and input.  All decisions relating to the COVID-19 crisis have been made via this publicly approved process.

I support keeping our Seminole County community safe from the coronavirus.  If our local hospitals, along with our medical experts, believe social distancing and facial coverings are necessary public safety measures, I believe we have an obligation to formally ensure those practices in order to stem the tide of this disease and to avoid more draconian measure such as the reinstitution of business shut downs.  This is a public health crisis, and I defer to the advice of the true experts, our medical professionals, when determining the appropriate methods to keep our community safe.  The County’sExecutive Order 2020-030 to social distance and wear a face covering is similar to a mandatory hurricane evacuation order; it is put into place to protect you.  It is short term but could save lives.

I hope Seminole County residents heed their medical advice to help protect our community.  We will get through this together.  God bless us all!