By Lee Constantine
July 31, 2020

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Over the past four months, no organizations have worked harder than Florida’s Emergency Operation Centers. For more than 130 days, they have been activated, 24/7, to deal with the health-related complications of COVID-19. Now, these same folks have to shift and add to their assignment preparation for the effects of a possible Category 1 hurricane. As Isaias approaches, sandbag distribution and mobilization of personnel all have to be coordinated while adjusting for social distancing, face-masks and medical staff needed at potential shelter locations. Words are inadequate to appreciate the double-duty of our Emergency Management and Public Safety workers, but let’s try: Thank you!

Central Florida 100 (7/31/20)

July 29, 2020

The COVID-19 virus is testing our resolve, and the numbers here in Florida tell an extremely concerning story.

By every key metric, our state has recently been reaching record levels on an almost daily basis. These include the number of new COVID-19 cases, and the percentage of those tested for COVID-19 who are positive. Our hospitalization rates are alarming. Since March 1, Florida has reported more than 400,000 COVID-19 total cases and over 5,500 deaths.

As leaders serving Florida, we are urgently asking our community to join us in renewing our commitment to following safety guidelines, recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent more people from getting infected, becoming sick or unfortunately even dying. We all need to take personal responsibility to do the right thing for ourselves and one another to avoid our community experiencing an even more severe impact from COVID-19 like we have seen in other parts of our country.

The most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed in the first place. There are simple steps we can take to effectively reduce the risk of transmission and turn the tide in our community.

1. Wear a mask when you’re outside of your home. Wearing masks should not be a controversial or a divisive issue. Masks can help save lives, just like seatbelts, traffic lights and life vests. Multiple studiesincluding a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine, show that individuals with no symptoms or mild symptoms can transmit the virus to others. But wearing simple cloth masks can stop more than 90% of the droplets that transmit the virus.

2. Practice social distancing. Where possible, keep at least 6 feet between you and other people outside your home. Remember, even people who do not appear sick can still spread the virus to you if you are too close. Avoiding close proximity to other people will help to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

3. Wash hands frequently. Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public or blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, can help stem the spread. If soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands.

4. Avoid the Three Cs. The World Health Organization has recommended avoiding “Crowded” places with many people nearby, “Close” contact settings where people have close-range conversations, and “Confined,” enclosed places with poor ventilation. If you do make the decision to gather with others, it is much safer to do so outdoors rather than indoors.

Full Commentary: Dozens of Florida leaders urge: Be safe to stop the spread of COVID-19 | Commentary

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!