Guest commentary: Seeking wider latitude

Jared Grifoni
Vice-chairman, Marco Island City Council
Jared Grifoni

At the City Council special meeting on April 29, the council received reports from the Collier County Public Health Department, the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, and our city staff on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In light of those updates, we discussed reopening protocols for the city of Marco Island. The council received much public input over the last couple months that have contributed significantly to local government actions in response to the pandemic.

The council unanimously voted to reopen the city-controlled beach access points, hard surfaces like the basketball and bocce court at our city park facilities, to resume a normal schedule for our important citizen-driven advisory committees, and to begin a phased-in reopening of City Hall.

In addition to the foregoing items, I made a motion to the City Council to allow for the drafting of a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis. The purpose of the letter would be to encourage and support our community, our local small businesses, and our workers. The City Council unanimously supported my proposal and draft letter that I have signed as council vice-chair together with Erik Brechnitz, our council chair, on behalf of the entire City Council. It has now been sent to the governor.

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In the letter, we asked the Governor to permit a wider, although still limited, latitude as part of phase one, based on local conditions. All of Marco Island’s businesses are essential to the livelihood of most of our working citizens. Our local businesses are generally small and family-owned, not franchises and not controlled by large corporations.

Today, many are at significant risk of failing and disappearing. It is tremendously important that reasonable decisions in support of our local small businesses and workers can be made by allowing local control and leeway to reopen businesses so long as it can be done safely and appropriately. These decisions would be based on local on-the-ground conditions, made in consultation with local health authorities, and to ensure proper safety of patrons, workers, and the community at large.

Our city, a unique tightly-knit island with two bridges connecting it to the mainland and a population ranging from 17,000 full-time residents to approximately 45,000 in-season, has seen 15 confirmed positive resident cases and no deaths have been confirmed within the city limits due to COVID-19 as of the date of the letter.

In all of Collier County with a population of 380,000, there were 31 positive COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized on Monday at Naples Community Hospital. The county’s health metrics, per the Florida Department of Health dashboard, have been trending down and in the “target range” as of the latest reported data. Our county hospitals are well-stocked with PPE, have significant bed and ICU availability, and are well prepared with unused ventilators.

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We believe the highly seasonal nature of our city’s population supports our request for community action to prevent further economic devastation in the safest manner possible. No business will be required to operate. And no business will be allowed to operate with standards substantially dissimilar than those required for restaurants or other operating businesses.

We believe in individual choice and personal responsibility. Many have lives to lead, families to take care of, jobs to be fulfilled, dreams and happiness to be pursued. We stand together in support of their inalienable rights and innate hope, now at risk of being snuffed out.

We need to get through this together as a community based on the facts available and data driven analysis of the conditions on the ground. Our community is listening, they are responding, and they have been overwhelmingly complying with mitigation efforts. Let's do our best to remember to keep a clear head as we move through this crisis. Fighting the virus and getting people back to work safely is a common goal we can all get behind.

The full version of the letter is available on my website at I’d be happy to discuss these important issues further with you. You can reach me via email at or phone 239-315-2089.