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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Mar. 13, 2020 3 weeks ago

Volusia issues local state of emergency, Bike Week canceled

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Volusia County Schools' spring break has also been extended until March 30.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

Volusia County has declared a local state of emergency on Friday, March 13, following President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency due to COVID-19, of which there are over 1,600 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials from different agencies and departments gathered for a press conference Friday, including Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry who said all Bike Week activities have been canceled, effective 8 a.m. Saturday, March 14. This means all city-issued permits for outdoor events and itinerant vending will no longer be valid. No new permits in Daytona will be issued through March 20, per the city's seven-day emergency order. 

Henry also asked spring breakers find another destination to visit this year. 

“We welcome to our city almost 10 million visitors each year," Henry said. "That is an astronomic number and these decisions have been made with great thought and deliberation, but at the end of the day, it is about the safety of our residents and the safety of our visitors.”

Volusia County Schools is also extending its spring break for another week, with classes scheduled to resume on Monday, March 30, following guidance from the Florida Department of Education.

All extra-curricular activities, including field trips and sporting events, have also been canceled. Volusia County Schools Superintendent Scott Fritz said there is a "pandemic academic plan" in place as well, should the situation get worse. 

“We are still waiting on guidance from the state regarding things such as make-up days and graduations," Fritz said.

Volusia has three cases of coronavirus: a 66-year-old woman, a 60-year-old woman and a 70-year old woman. All have been linked to a Nile River tour. 

Volusia County Florida Department of Health Administrator Patricia Boswell said she understood the public's desire to have more information on the patients, namely the city in Volusia in which they reside, but said this is all the information FDOH can release. It's an epidemiology investigation, she said. 

"The Florida Department of Health has to balance patient privacy with the responsibility to Floridians to disclose the information to protect the public," Boswell said.

Individuals are self-isolating, and those are the measures that are being implemented at this time. 

Volusia County issuing a state of emergency allows for more operating flexibilities, said Emergency Management Director Jim Judge. The county will be able to appropriate funds as necessary if emergency needs come up. The emergency operations center has also been partially activated.

“It just makes it easier to get goods and be able to stay on top of our supplies," Judge said.

Volusia County Sheriff Chitwood mentioned increased safety protocols for first responders, asking that if people wish to file a nonemergency report, they do so at a precinct or online. He added that this wasn't a time to panic. However, if a first responder falls sick, they won't be able to continue to do their jobs.

“This is a disease that we’re asking you to use common sense and inform yourself,” Chitwood.

Volusia County needs the public help to follow FDOH's recommendations, said County Council Chair Ed Kelley. He reminded the public to wash their hands, avoid large gatherings and call a doctor if they are not feeling well. In turn, he said the county is working to make sure information is made available quickly.

“While we’re doing all we can, please assist us in doing all that you can," Kelley said.

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