We’re all watching state and federal governments closely as our nation works to stop the spread of COVID-19 and reopen the country. However, it’s cities, counties, towns and villages that are on the frontlines. How are these laboratories of democracy handling it? What are we learning?
COVID-19 threw a wrench in ordinary public works, government business and community gatherings. The good news: Local communities have found creative ways to “pull together,” while “staying apart.”
COVID-19 has taken lives, jobs and the ability to maintain our normal routines. It’s also taken away various rites of passage from high school students—the most notable being graduation. How do you hand graduates their diploma while remaining socially distant? Broward County’s solution is virtual graduations. “The public high school graduations will take place between June 15 and June 28 and are planned to include speeches and a roll call of graduates. Each of them will be broadcast live on BECON-TV and streamed as well. The date for each school’s graduation will be announced May 1, the school district said.”
Broward’s not the only county to crack this puzzle. Leon County Schools are using a mix of traditional and novel methods of assembly to give High School graduates their due recognition. “Drive-in” graduation ceremonies will take place in Leon County May 26 – May 29. The ceremonies will be simulcast on 93.3, as well as live streamed on Facebook and YouTube. “Students are encouraged to decorate their cars ‘to the max.’ No limos, party buses or big vans are allowed.” Read more about the details here.
More than 26 million Americans filed for unemployment since the crisis began, which means Florida has a lot of families in need. But how do you take care of your community’s most vulnerable while accommodating social-distancing orders? That requires intense planning and coordination and the City of Crestview is pulling it off! City staff and engineers have coordinated with fire and police departments, as well as county and regional organizations to distribute food to families without them ever having to leave their cars. “With participation from multiple city departments, county and regional organizations, the substantial undertaking perfectly embodies Crestview’s 2020 motto, ‘a community coming together,’ Whitten said.” Read about the logistics here.
We’re now being encouraged to wear facemasks in public, but obtaining them has grown more difficult. Many Florida cities and counties are working to fix that. The City of Hialeah donated 3,500 masks to local assisted living facilities to ensure senior citizens have access to the personal protective gear.
COVID-19 has forced us to work, learn and play all within the confines of our homes. Unfortunately, not everyone in the state has access to the reliable Wi-Fi necessary to maintain this arrangement. Alachua and Leon County Schools are doing their best to change that so students can keep up in this new age of distance learning. In Leon County, 15 buses will “be stationed throughout the community to provide access to free Wi-Fi for students in need.” Each bus will provide internet access within a radius of 300 feet. Alachua County will send out buses with Wi-Fi “to 45 high-need neighborhoods for 3 hours a day on weekdays.”
The City of St. Augustine is handing out 900 smart thermometers to residents free of charge. The thermometers are connected to the internet and will share temperature data to help inform public health decisions. “If fevers begin to increase in a given area, potentially signaling an outbreak of COVID-19 or other illnesses like the flue, officials watching the data would see that rise in real time.”
On April 29th, Governor DeSantis announced that Phase 1 of the Sunshine State’s Reopening Plan will begin May 4th. It’s more important than ever to strike a balance between getting people back to work and taking the precautions necessary to keep this virus under control. To that end, a Pinellas County small business owner is creating large protective shields for other businesses to use as barriers. “They’re preventative measures that we can take and the more that we take, the better we can protect ourselves and the people around us,” she said. Read more here.
At the moment, it’s still difficult to see the end of this crisis, but we will get through it—especially if local communities continue to act quickly and creatively.