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This is the transcript of City Manager John Regan’s community update video regarding Coronavirus, posted on Facebook on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
Hello, and thank you for joining me, I’m John Regan, the City Manager for the City of St. Augustine.
I spoke previously with Mayor Tracy Upchurch on a Facebook Live post, but we were unable to answer questions that came across the screen, so I would like to offer you the answers now and to clarify where there may still be some confusion.
The Coronavirus is like nothing we have ever seen in this community – for those versed in hurricane terminology, the Coronavirus does not have a “cone of uncertainty.” There is no direct path to use as a guide as we prepare for what may come.
And that is what makes these decisions so difficult. (transcript continues below the video)
Our decision to prohibit alcohol consumption on premises for local bars and restaurants for the next 30 days was not made lightly. We do understand the tremendous financial impact, and we recognize that it could be devastating to some businesses.
This prohibition would not apply to liquor stores or retailers selling closed containers since they are not selling alcohol for consumption on premises.
Unfortunately, the bars and restaurants by their very nature are intended to bring people together to socialize in close proximity to one another, which is a direct conflict to the definition of social distancing.
The decision sends a clear and direct message to the community that we must do our part to flatten the curve of Coronavirus.
So let me address your questions:
We hope to provide updated information as frequently as possible and whenever possible. Our messaging will be in concert with St. Johns County, Flagler Health+, and the Florida Department of Health.
Several people asked about supermarkets, daycares, hotels, lodging, retail stores…
The city has not imposed any restriction on these kinds of businesses. Supermarkets are an essential business that need to remain open and this is outlined as such in the CDC guidelines. When shopping at grocery stores, it is important to practice proper hygiene and social distancing practices.
Again, with regard to daycares, the CDC recommends you do not take your children to day care centers.
As for hotels and lodging… we are hopeful that everyone is taking necessary precautions, following CDC guidelines for social distancing and making the best and most community minded decisions.
One important thing: the alcohol consumption on premises does apply to the lodging industry.
A question came in about whether we have plans in place with Flagler Health+ (Flagler Hospital). I have been in constant communications with hospital administrators daily. Every action that we have taken is designed to support the local hospital. We understand the limitations of its ability to handle a major crisis like this – the hospital has been increasing its capacity to handle the potential influx of patients that isolates Coronavirus patients from the regular hospital population. Regardless, we must reduce the patient load, and the hospital supports the difficult decisions that I’ve had to make today.
Lastly, we are deeply concerned about the homeless population in the community. Our community outreach officers continue their efforts to educate them about social distancing, hygiene and sanitation, using CDC materials that are in an easy-to-read format. The Dining with Dignity program has been converted to take-out service only, also as a way to encourage social distancing.
We appreciate your patience and understanding as we find ourselves facing new challenges with Coronavirus every day. This is fluid situation and we are taking steps and making decisions one day at a time. We are prepared to reevaluate these decisions as more information becomes readily available.
This is a difficult time for all of us, and we will get through this, together, as a community.