City of Marco Island declares state of emergency, cancels events amid coronavirus threat

The city of Marco Island has declared a state of emergency to ensure the health and safety of residents and visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"This proclamation shall activate the disaster emergency plans applicable to the city and shall be the authority for the use or distribution of any supplies, equipment, materials and/or facilities assembled or arranged to be made available," according to the declaration.

The proclamation, made during Monday's meeting, authorizes City Manager Mike McNees to take appropriate emergency measures.

"This declaration activates your disaster emergency plans in exactly the same way you would do so for a hurricane," McNees said. "It delegates to the city manager certain emergency decision making authority should we be in a position where City Council was unable to meet."

Vice-chair Jared Grifoni asked McNees to explain what else would the declaration allow him to do.

"It would give me the ability to establish curfews, limit the sale of alcohol [...] and call the National Guard," McNees said

McNees said it is unlikely he will have to call the National Guard but he pointed to the possibility of cancelling all events sponsored by the city. 

A sign at the entrance of the police department building, where the city's community room is located, read that people should come to the City Council meeting only if necessary and encouraged residents to watch the meeting online.

A city employee was observed disinfecting common surfaces in and outside the room prior to the meeting. 

More:Collier County declare states of emergency due to coronavirus

And:Seafood fest, business expo canceled in Marco Island amid worldwide coronavirus outbreak

Earlier on Monday, Collier County commissioners declared a local state of emergency as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, joining a growing list of local governments in Florida that have already done so.

Commissioners held an emergency special meeting at the commission chambers to discuss responses to COVID-19 and receive an update from county officials about the current situation in Collier.

Among other things, Collier will shut down league play, for things like Little League, at county facilities; cancel, postpone or limit county programs with more than 50 participants; and scrap non-essential meetings, such as advisory committee, planning commission or neighborhood informational meetings.

The city of Naples also declared a local state of emergency Monday due to the coronavirus outbreak and set up a COVID-19 hotline.

President Donald Trump on Monday issued guidelines that called for people in the United States to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people and to limit discretionary travel.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 9 declared a state of emergency that would broaden his powers to respond to the novel coronavirus, including allowing him to deploy National Guard troops if necessary.

The city also canceled the farmers' market, among other events.

"Based on the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control that public gatherings in excess of 50 people be curtailed, I have made the decision to suspend the operation of the Wednesday Farmers Market for this week," McNees wrote in an email on Monday.

On Tuesday, the city announced the cancellation of all organized programming at Mackle Park, city special event permits to be held at city-owned locations, committee meetings and this month's code enforcement magistrate hearing.  

Special event permit applications will not be accepted between March 17 and April 1

"The city is assessing locations which have large gatherings of people, such as recreational areas, houses of worship for trending and policy changes," according to the city news release.

The city last week canceled several events and services out of abundance of caution amid the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, according to top city officials.

Pizza with the Police and a CPR class, both scheduled in March, and fingerprinting services were canceled as three Collier County residents tested positive for COVID-19.

"We are taking precautionary (measures) right now following CDC guidelines," said Chief Tracy L. Frazzano of the Marco Island Police Department on March 12.

Frazzano said the department is also having personnel issues.

"We do have some people that are actually out sick already."

None of the department's staff is suspected of having the virus, according to Frazzano.

She said the department suspended its fingerprinting services as well.

"The county has canceled theirs already and we were starting to receive the influx from the county," Frazzano said.

Chief Mike Murphy of Marco Island Fire-Rescue said the department has canceled an upcoming CPR class for similar reasons.

Murphy said the department canceled the class as a precaution to avoid the spread of the virus.

Murphy said first responders are following standard procedures like they do in cases where a patient might have the flu.

"With flu cases there is a standardized SOP that tells us to put a mask on the patient, wear a mask yourself, and we also keep away non-essential personnel on those types of calls," Murphy said. "One person will go in when it's a flu case or anything like that and evaluate the patient to make a determination of what needs to be done."

"This is what we do everyday."

"We are encouraging everyone to follow the guidelines that has been put out by the CDC which include limiting your social interactions as much as possible, only go where you really need to go," McNees said on March 12.

McNees said staff continues to monitor the situation closely and evaluate city operations. In the future, the city might consider options like having staff working from home, he said.

McNees said the most important thing he wants to emphasize is that Marco Islanders need to follow the advice of the CDC and Florida Department of Health.

"If you are an elderly resident of the island who has a known compromised immune system, you certainly need to evaluate for yourself, whether the city is closing events or not or whether the city hall is open or closed, you need to evaluate for yourself what you think your risk might be," McNees said.

"That's something where people need to take individual responsibility."

More:Coronavirus in Florida: Total number of cases jumps again, bringing state total to 160

Other canceled or postponed events in Marco Island

  • Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival scheduled for the weekend of March 20
  • 2020 Business and Community Expo scheduled for March 18
  • March Networking After Five scheduled for March 17
  • Marco Island Charter Middle School's Casino Night scheduled for March 20 (postponed)
  • All special events of the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island through June 30 (religious services will continue)
  • Annual Shell Show and Shell Art Sale of the Marco Island Shell Club scheduled for March 19, 20 and 21
  • YMCA's Dottie's Memorial Duck Derby 2020 scheduled for March 25 (postponed)

Additional reporting by Patrick Riley and Brittany Carloni.

Omar Rodríguez Ortiz is a community reporter for Naples Daily News and Marco Eagle. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram as @Omar_fromPR, and on Facebook. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.