Ever since we issued our first emergency order regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has responded admirably. But now, we have reached a critical juncture in our fight to bring this deadly and contagious virus under control.
The actions we take over the coming days — both together and as individuals — are important to ensuring we all get through this together and how many people become infected.
The total number of cases in our state has surpassed 1,400. Greater Fort Lauderdale, along with neighboring Miami-Dade County, is the epicenter of the disease’s spread. When I issued that first declaration on March 13, Broward County had just 11 cases. Now, there are 311 — almost a 30-fold increase in just 11 days. We can expect many more people will become infected as testing becomes more readily available.
This cannot be stated strongly enough: The time to act is now.
We must greatly limit social interaction until the rate of infection declines. It is time to stay home. This disease spreads when people are in close contact, and few know if they are carriers of the virus.
Working together with Gov. DeSantis and Broward County, we have implemented a very aggressive set of emergency orders to fight off COVID-19.
We have closed non-essential businesses and places where groups congregate, including restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theaters. We closed our beaches, our parks, our libraries, our museums. Assisted living facilities are on lockdown to protect our most vulnerable. The governor yesterday even ordered the quarantining of people traveling to Florida from the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
These are tough times and required decisive, unprecedented action. Our nation has not faced a health crisis of this magnitude in many decades.
Many of you are complying with these responsible and reasonable orders. I’m grateful for your actions and your response.
Cynthia Lull wrote me on Facebook to say, “We need to isolate. This is a matter of life and death.” Carolyn Burns added, “Let’s hope and pray we all take the proper measures to stay safe and well and get through this global pandemic.”
Unfortunately, too many of our neighbors are not taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously.
This weekend, people were walking in large groups along the sidewalks on the barrier island. Other crowds took to their boats and partied along the Intracoastal Waterway and on the sandbar in the middle of the New River.
This is exactly what we should not be doing. This literally puts lives at risk.
As a result, local government has worked together to institute some additional common sense orders. Marinas and boat ramps are closed except for some very limited reasons. The Police Department has closed the sandbar in cooperation with the property owner. I am also now ordering the closure of public parking garages and lots on the beach.
I’m particularly concerned with the lack of commitment from our younger folks. You might think that you are less inclined to get infected and become sick and thus say, “So, what the heck. Let’s party.”
But you can be an unknowing carrier who spreads the virus to those who are more at risk of serious illness. That could be your parents, your grandparents or a friend who has a compromised immune system.
Please listen. You can save a life.
I share the feelings that Amy Jones Hamilton expressed about this behavior in a recent email she sent me. “If the number of infections continue to grow, it’s simply because the under 60-somethings have a greater sense of denial than a common sense of community,” Amy wrote.
The consequences of inaction are truly frightening. Let’s remember we are a community and that it will take a community to overcome this challenge.
I urge everyone to follow the instructions that the state, county and city have laid out. They are important for the health and safety of not just yourself, but of your family, loved ones, friends and neighbors.
Only essential businesses should be open. Stay at home unless you need to go to the grocery store or have some other emergency need. Keep a safe distance from others if you must leave your house. Until this is behind us, order some takeout, start a good book, binge-watch that TV series you heard so much about or call an old friend.
Remember, this situation is only temporary and we can keep it short if we promise to sit tight, stay put and remain vigilant.
This community has united before in times of crisis. The response last year when Hurricane Dorian seemed headed for us was amazing — people made necessary preparations and hunkered down. With COVID-19, we may not have live shots of Jim Cantore on the Weather Channel to help drive home the danger, but that does not make this moment any less perilous.
Fort Lauderdale is a resilient community, and we can weather this storm. We have a lot of work ahead. Businesses are suffering, and many individuals have either been laid off or lost their jobs. We will work diligently to bring our economy back. We will do it together. We will be a stronger community as we are united in our belief that this is one of the most special places in the world there is to live.
For now, shelter in place. Stay home. It’s the right thing to do. For you… For all of us.