The onslaught of the COVID-19 virus has truly shaken up the world, and its effects have squeezed the fibers of our being right here at home. But even as our community and nation hunker down to stem the spread of this deadly and contagious disease, the city presses forward in its mission to improve our utility infrastructure.
Before I talk about those developments, though, I want to update everyone regarding our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 13, I declared a state of emergency and have since ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and many other places where people congregate and could spread the virus. That has even included our public beaches.
Our city leadership has tried to chart a prudent and reasonable response to this new coronavirus. We have made our decisions based on the advice of healthcare professionals and in consultation with Gov. DeSantis, his emergency team and other metropolitan communities in our region.
After we acted in concert with Miami Beach to close the beaches, the governor thanked Fort Lauderdale for leading by example in Florida.
The fact is that COVID-19 is spreading at an incredible rate in our community. When I initiated the first emergency action, there were 11 known cases in Broward County. Now, there are 180 and at least three deaths. That’s more than a 16-fold increase in nine days. We need to limit public gatherings and increase social distancing as much as possible.
The three known deaths are particularly troubling. They occurred at an assisted living facility in our city and highlight the vulnerability of our sizable elderly population.
No one likes the pain inflicted on our businesses and workforce. Nor do we take lightly shutting down the annual Spring Break ritual that has for so long help fuel our economy. However, we also cannot risk a repeat of the grim and horrible scenes from Italy of an overwhelmed medical system and death after death occurring.
City management and I are exploring what steps we can take to help those who have been economically impacted and what we can do to advocate for assistance from the federal and state government.
I encourage businesses to explore the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Loan program, the state’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program and the Short Time Compensation program. Additional assistance is on its way based on recently passed legislation by Congress.
I’m heartened to see governments acting together.
We’ve worked with the federal and state government to set up a field hospital locally to handle any overflow of patients. And, testing is beginning to become more available so we better know the extent of the outbreak locally. And equally important, all 31 cities and the county have now established a dialogue to ensure that the actions we are taking are enforced throughout the region.
The restrictions that the city has imposed currently run through April 16. We assess these on a daily basis and will revise them as circumstances warrant.
I urge everyone to remain calm but take all necessary steps to protect yourself from catching the virus or spreading it. I also ask that you help our struggling restaurants and utilize the takeout and delivery options that many are offering in order to stay in business.