As officials continue to see hopeful signs in the coronavirus curve, Volusia County has begun preliminary plans for a phased in resumption of county services. While no definite timetable has been established yet, county staff said Tuesday during their weekly COVID-19 briefing with the Volusia County Council that they want to be ready to re-open when the time is right.
While critical public safety responses have continued uninterrupted, the pandemic has resulted in government buildings closing to the public, with many employees working from home. Services like libraries have transitioned to online and curbside and the beaches have been closed to vehicles to prevent crowding. On Tuesday, County Manager George Recktenwald told the council that the staff is actively working on plans to resume some traditional operations. But he said it will be a phased in approach and based on the best available data as well as guidance from Governor DeSantis.
“We do have a team in place, and we’re actively going over each of these areas of the government on what we can open up,” Recktenwald said.
Re-opening the beach seemed to be uppermost in many people’s minds. Deputy County Manager Suzanne Konchan said the first phase will likely be providing better access for the disabled, re-opening some parking on the ramps and then deciding how best to reintroduce vehicle traffic on the beaches without creating overcrowded conditions.
“The departments have already begun meeting collaboratively on how best to re-launch our county services across our departments and divisions,” Konchan said. “It’s a broad discussion.” The goal, she said, with coastal access is to re-open it “in a logical way that follows the advice from our health professionals in a safe way to get people out enjoying the fresh air and the beaches.”
To council members, it can’t happen soon enough. They want to make sure the county is ready to resume beach access when the Governor gives the green light to re-open the state.
“My hope is we open it sooner than later,” said County Chair Ed Kelley.
Added council member Billie Wheeler: “Let’s get that beach open so people can go down there and enjoy it.”
Other strategies the county is examining includes a phased re-opening of library services, starting with public computer areas first and the possible installation of plexiglass shields in county work areas that have direct customer contact. The county also is making preparations for the opening of its summer camps if medical experts say it’s safe. Recktenwald stressed that whatever the county does, it will need to ensure the safety of its employees, coordinate with local cities and enlist the continued support and cooperation of the public.
“My recommendation is a phased approach,’” said Recktenwald. “We don’t want to jump out ahead and then have a relapse. So it is going to require the citizens to continue to work with us.”
Other items mentioned during the council’s coronavirus briefing include the following:The burn ban remains in effect.
- The burn ban remains in effect.
- The county’s animal services clinic has been partially re-opened to accommodate trap-neuter-return spay/neuter services only.
- There have been no positive COVID-19 cases among employees or inmates in the county’s corrections system and no report of positive cases as well among any county employees.
- Beach safety personnel have issued six citations and more than 2,014 verbal warnings related to physical activity violations on the beach.
- The county has provided $70,000 in grant funds to the Second Harvest Food Bank to assist with food needs. The funds are being shared among four community organizations – Halifax Urban Ministries, Food Brings Hope, the Neighborhood Center and the Jewish Federation. To date, the organizations combined have delivered 5,304 bags of food.
- A COVID-19 positive homeless plan is now in place and is currently serving one person.
- A mask-making program organized by Community Services along with Human Resources has resulted thus far in more than 1,000 masks being distributed to county employees to help keep them safe and on the job serving the public.
- A request to re-open the farmer’s market at the Volusia County Fairgrounds in DeLand for the sale of produce products only is under consideration.
- Library patrons have picked up 31,355 items since Library Services transitioned to curbside service on March 23. In addition, there have been 157,900 visits to the Library Services’ digital resources.
- Under a partnership with the Council on Aging of Volusia County, Votran will be picking up meals from restaurants and delivering them to Council on Aging passengers at their homes. The Council on Aging will be paying the costs.
- The Community Information Division is organizing a series of panel discussions that are being broadcast live on Facebook. The first one, which addressed the issue of COVID-19 financial assistance for small businesses, took place on Friday, April 17, 2020 and attracted in excess of 8,700 views.
- Volusia County Economic Development in conjunction with several local agencies have developed a new web site to initially serve as a clearinghouse for information related to COVD-19 business assistance resources. The site, VolusiaBusinessResources.com, recently went live.
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