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85 Fla. deaths from COVID-19
6,741 individuals test positive statewide
Florida confiremd COVID-19 cases as of March 31
This map shows Florida counties where individuals were tested for COVID-19 and were found to have the disease. The counties that are black, like the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean are where no person was tested and confirmed with COVID-19.

Map By FDOH

By Jeff M. Hardison © April 1, 2020 at 8:10 a.m.
     TALLAHASSEE —
As of approximately 6 p.m. yesterday evening (Tuesday, March 31), the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) said 85 individuals’ deaths in Florida are being credited to resulting from symptoms caused by COVID-19.
     As one indicator of some level of monitoring the potentially fatal virus, information from the FDOH’s recent release of results shows test results reflecting:
Dixie - 0 positive, 0 hospitalized, 0 deaths
Gilchrist – 0 positive, 0 hospitalized, 0 deaths
Levy – 2 positive, 0 hospitalized, 0 deaths
     As for the neighboring counties, the FDOH’s Dashboard information shows:
Alachua - 87 positive, 13 hospitalized, 0 deaths
Citrus - 19 positive, 4 hospitalized, 2 deaths
Columbia - 3 positive, 0 hospitalized, 0 deaths
Marion – 22 positive, 4 hospitalized, 0 death

     As for the actual number of Florida’s residents and visitors who have COVID-19 and who can transmit the disease to others, the FDOH like other similar agencies across America do not have enough of the test kits or laboratories to provide a true picture. Lacking many test kits and labs, the state of Florida has set a bar of qualification to be tested, which limits the number of people tested to only those already showing significant symptoms.
     As has been noted repeatedly, the best method to reduce the odds of infection and the subsequent symptoms of serious illness and even death is to limit contact with other humans.
     The FDOH noted that the twice-daily reports “reflect the state’s efforts to accurately and transparently share information.”
     To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, please visit the FDOH’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage by clicking HERE.
     For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please visit the CDC COVID-19 website by clicking HERE.
     For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the FDOH’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries also may be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.
     The website of https://levydisaster.com/ which is for Levy County Emergency Management is open to provide specific notifications on current Levy County government closures, as well as links to personal and business financial assistance for those that have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
     The website for all Dixie County Emergency Services, including Emergency Management can be reached by clicking HERE.
     The website for Gilchrist County information related to COVID-19, including county service limitations can be reached by clicking HERE.

 


Levy County Commission
enhances action to stop
the spread of COVID-19;

$500 and 60 days in jail
are maximum penalties
for having 10 or more people in one place

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 31, 2020 at 5:10 p.m.
     BRONSON –
The Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday morning (March 31) took more action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Levy County.
     First by moving the meeting place to a location with better odds for reducing the ability to spread COVID-19, the Levy County Commission showed its intent to practice best methods for containment. The meeting was conducted in the Levy County Annex rather than the Levy County Courthouse.
     The Annex has a large auditorium, which allows more people to sit there while being at least six feet from one another. Chairs in the auditorium were designated for members of the audience to use – while other chairs were meant for space between people alone.   
     Another exercise in reducing human-to-human contact was the County Commission’s allowing people to call in for a telephone conference type of “attendance.” While this method did not allow for two-way communication, it did allow people to listen to the meeting via telephone.
     County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks went on the “party line” at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday to test the telephone line and it proved to be successful for one person to be heard clearly stating a short message.
     Commissioners Lilly Rooks, Mike Joyner, Rock Meeks and John Meeks used microphones that did not pick up what they were saying to be understood on the conference call.
     Likewise, people yelling questions from the audience could not be heard, and when they were asked to identify themselves, their names were inaudible to the point telephone line listeners to positively identify them.
     Despite the limits for this first experiment, Chairman Brooks provided information via telephone interview immediately after the meeting.
     Also, by looking at the verbiage in the resolution adopted by a unanimous County Commission vote shows Levy County prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people in one place at one time.
     The new local law, which is enforceable by law enforcement officers, shows that:
     ● All public or private gatherings that bring together more than 10 people in the same room or indoor or outdoor space at the same time are prohibited, except for the limited purposes and venues permitted by this Emergency Order, such as that very County Commission meeting, where chairs were marked as being available to be used – being six-feet or more apart.
     ● This Emergency Order does not include a gathering occurring in a single household or living unit.
     ● This Emergency Order does not include gatherings in venues that provide essential goods and services, including grocery stores, facilities providing health care to humans or animals, gas stations, and banks/credit unions.
     ● This Emergency Order does not include gatherings of people performing essential services, including: all government services and functions; food production, distribution and sale; construction projects; building management and maintenance.
operation and maintenance of utilities including water, sewer, gas and electric; public transportation; road construction and maintenance; cybersecurity operations; flood control; solid waste and recycling collection, removal, and processing; and telecommunications systems.
     ● This Emergency Order does not include gatherings for government meetings held in government buildings or religious services in churches; provided that those gatherings include social distancing measures of maintaining a minimum of six feet between any attendees or participants.
     ● Essential services, as contained in this Emergency Order, will be construed broadly.
     ● Any person violating this or any Emergency or Executive Order issued pursuant to Emergency Declaration 2020-020, as the same may be extended or altered, or any person who willfully fails or refuses to comply with the order or orders of any duly
authorized law enforcement officer or personnel charged with the responsibility for the enforcement of executive orders shall, upon conviction therefore, be punished in accordance with Section 252.50, Florida Statutes, or, in the alternative or in addition, Section 30-37, Levy Code of Ordinances.
     ● If any provision of this Emergency Order is invalidated by a court of competent jurisdiction, such invalidity shall not affect the remaining provisions of this Emergency Order, which shall continue to have the full force and effect of law.
     ● This Emergency Order will take effect upon filing with the Clerk of Court of Levy County, in accordance with Section 252.46(2), Florida Statutes, and will remain in effect during the Local State of Emergency declared by Emergency Declaration 2020-020, as the same may be extended or altered, but in no event longer than 90 days from this date, unless it is either modified or rescinded.
     Violation of this duly-promulgated order is a second degree
misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 for each offense and by a term of imprisonment of up to 60 days in the county jail for each offense, pursuant to Section 252.50 of Florida Statutes.
     The local law is based on several points, including that on March 20, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-71, closing restaurants and bars to on-premises consumption, and closing gymnasiums, as the result of the susceptibility for spread of COVID-19 in gatherings of more than 10 people.
     The preamble to the resolution that created this local law noted neighboring counties to Levy County have experienced a higher rate of COVID-19 infection among people there in contrast with those two confirmed cases in Levy County as of Tuesday morning. Also, Alachua County has issued a "stay-at-home" emergency order, requiring that all non-essential business and activities must cease, and residents must stay at their homes unless they are performing essential activities.
     Levy County law enforcement and government personnel have
witnessed an increase in visitors to Levy County from surrounding areas that are subject to "stay-at-home" orders, as those visitors seek places where they can gather and engage in recreational or leisure activities -- without the threat of violation of an emergency order, the resolution noted.
     A huge block party recently in the unrecorded part of Levy County east of Williston showed hundreds of people converging in one place and presenting a nightmare scene from an epidemiologist’s perspective. Members of the Levy County Sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies spent 45 minutes breaking up that crowd.
     An increase in people coming to Levy County from areas where COVID-19 infections are greater increases the risk of the spread of COVID-19 from those other counties into Levy County, especially when those visitors are looking for a place to gather and recreate in ways that may not follow the recommended social distancing protocols of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are being endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald J. Trump.
     Levy County Emergency Management Director John MacDonald and County Commission Chairman Brooks, as well as the other four county commissioners, in consultation with law enforcement and other government officials, and with review of the local unit of the Florida Department of Health’s recommendations and information on COVID-19, has determined that prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people is of paramount interest in preventing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in Levy County, according to the document.
     As for other action at the emergency meeting, the County Commission is leaving open most county parks – including Shell Mound Park Campground, trail, boardwalk and boat ramp.
     Blue Springs Park and Henry Beck Park remain closed, however, due to swimmers not being able to maintain a safe distance from one another while they are in the park – causing a danger for spreading COVID-19.
     Executive Orders, which originated from Florida Gov. DeSantis and other state leaders can be seen by clicking HERE.
     The next regular meeting of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners is scheduled for April 7, starting at 9 a.m. in the Levy County Annex.
     Chairman Brooks said he anticipates the audio service to be better for the next meeting than for this meeting, for people who want to listen via telephone conferencing. After the COVID-19 emergency is over, County Commission Chairman Brooks said he is considering keeping the telephonic option available for the public to listen live to County Commission meetings in the future.
     In addition to the limit of numbers of people allowed to be together at one time to reduce the spread of the disease, there was more information shared.
     The boat ramp on the west end of Yankeetown at the farthest point on Levy County Road 40 West is scheduled for improvements, and it will be closed starting in the second week of April. Levy County obtained a grant for improving this boat ramp.
     While the Dixie County public libraries and the Gilchrist County public libraries are all closed, the libraries in Levy County remain open. There are new rules, though, regarding use of computers there by the public.
     Also, Brooks said, there are only so many people allowed in at the same time. Each person is allowed only two 30-minute sessions per day on the shared computers. Also, until the COVID-19 crisis passes, there will be no new Levy County library cards given to residents.
     Chairman Brooks said this is not a time to be browsing in the library. People have about 10 minutes to go in and find their book or movie and then they need to get out.
     The chairman of the Levy County Commission shared his thoughts about living in Levy County during this trying time.
     “During a difficult time like this,” Brooks said in the post-meeting telephone interview, “it is easy to point things out and be negative. Everyone is anxious and on edge, with so much uncertainty.”
      This natural disaster, he said, is not like a hurricane. With a hurricane, people get some warning time before it hits to prepare or evacuate. Then it hits and goes away after a relatively short period of time. With COVID-19, this disaster could disrupt people worldwide for months on end, he said. That’s people all over the world – not just in areas hit by a passing hurricane.
     With tribulation, though, the essence of individuals’ spirits does show.
     “We’re seeing people in this community,” Brooks said, “step up and help others. We’re seeing local businesses supporting other local businesses, and we’re seeing families supporting other families that are in need.”
     Brooks said people have chosen to live in Levy County because of the southern charm and the good-natured people who help others here.
     As part of the emergency meeting on Tuesday, Brooks read the safety measures being taken by the Constitutional Officers of Levy County. Generally, every person is well-advised to conduct research rather than to presume they can walk into any county office. Call first.
     The best place to find information about Levy County in relation to this natural disaster is https://levydisaster.com/.

 

 


Second COVID-19 case
confirmed in Levy County

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 29, 2020 at 6:10 p.m.
     BRONSON --
The second person with COVID-19 has been confirmed in Levy County as of today (Sunday, March 29) Levy County Emergency Management Director David Peaton noted in an email just before noon today.
     Florida Department of Health (FDOH) officials in Levy County contacted Emergency Management, Peaton said, to inform the department of the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in a Levy County resident.
     A Bronson area man in Levy County has tested positive for COVID-19.
     On Friday (March 27) Levy County Emergency Management was contacted by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) officials out of Levy County to alert the public to the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a Levy County resident.
     That was a 64-year old female who tested positive for COVID-19, Peaton said. This individual became isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials, Peaton said.
     As for the man who is a Bronson area resident, Emergency Management does not have much information about this case yet, Peaton said.
      The epidemiological investigation is ongoing and the Levy County unit of the FDOH will continue to work with the Florida Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners to ensure that local plans, resources and capabilities are in place to respond to a widespread outbreak and lessen the impacts on Levy County.
     The FDOH will conduct a contact history investigation and notify the affected individuals privately. It is important to remember; despite the number of cases that are in Levy County, or any other location, all people should continue to follow all recommendations by the CDC for their safety and for their friends' and families' protection, Peaton said.
     * Practice social distancing of six feet or more when possible and avoid large gatherings, hugs, handshakes, and close quarters.
     *Any person who feels ill and thinks they have symptoms, should contact their primary care provider before they arrive at that office or clinic.
     * Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60 percent, when water and soap are not available
     As always, the BEST place to find the most updated information about the Florida COVID-19 pandemic is https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/ or call the COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-866-779-6121, or send an email to COVID-19@flhealth.gov, Peaton said.
     The website of https://levydisaster.com/ is open to provide specific notifications on current Levy County government closures, as well as links to personal and business financial assistance for those that have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, Peaton said.

 


Governor urges people 65
and older to stay at home

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 28, 2020 at 9:10 p.m.
     TALLAHASSEE --
According to an Executive Order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, that took immediate effect on Tuesday (March 24), DeSantis directed the State Surgeon General Scott A Rivkees, M.D., to issue a public health advisory to all persons older than 65 years of age, urging them to stay home and to take such other measures as necessary to limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
     The governor further directed Dr. Rivkees to issue a public health advisory to persons that have a serious underlying medical condition that places them at a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
     Those medical conditions are consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and include but are not limited to chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma; serious heart conditions; immuno-compromised status, including those in cancer treatment; and severe obesity.
     The Surgeon General's advisory must urge these persons to stay home and to take such other measures as necessary to limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19, Gov. DeSantis noted in his Executive Order.
     "I hereby direct the State Surgeon General and State Health Officer to issue a public health advisory against all social or recreational gatherings of 10 or more people," he wrote, adding, "I hereby direct the State Surgeon General and State Health Officer to issue a public health advisory to those who can work remotely urging them to do so.”
     On the previous Friday, March 20, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nicole "Nikki" Fried, a member of the Florida Cabinet, asked Gov. DeSantis to implement a statewide "stay-at-home" order in response to dramatically increasing COVID-19 cases in the state.
     The governor appears to be starting with people who are 65 years old and older.

 


Eighth, Third and Fifth
Judicial Circuits court operations
extended due to COVID-19

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 26, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.
* Updated March 26, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
     GAINESVILLE –
As noted by Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Administration Communications Coordinator Christy Cain, Eighth Judicial Circuit Court Chief Judge James P. Nilon has issued the following directives for the Eighth Judicial Circuit effectively extending and modifying previous orders.
     The new order is effective March 30, and the previous order continues to that point.
     The specific notations follow as being effective from March 30 through April 17.
     The updated COVID-19 Emergency Procedures Effective March 30 for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, are noted with little editing below:
     Cases in which the defendant is arrested on a warrant or capias from another jurisdiction shall be administered in accordance with AOSC20-17 (Supreme Court of Florida, No. AOSC20-17, COVID-19 Emergency Measures In The Florida State Courts).
     ii. A Criminal Emergency Docket, immediately following First Appearance, to address “essential court proceedings” in all Alachua County criminal cases (circuit and county) and all circuit criminal cases in Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties. “Essential court proceedings” are defined as; bond hearings, in-custody Changes of Plea, and other matters, which the Court determines to be of an urgent nature.
     iii. Placement of a matter on the Criminal Emergency Docket must be approved by, and coordinated with, the office of the judge assigned to that case. If the assigned judge determines the matter meets the criteria set forth in the paragraph above, the case will be set on the next Criminal Emergency Docket at which the assigned judge is presiding, and the judicial assistant will so advise the Clerk of the Court and Court Administration. If the assigned judge determines that the exigencies of the case require the matter to be heard at an earlier date, the case may be set on the next available Criminal Emergency Docket. In that event, the judicial assistant shall also notify the office of the judge assigned to preside over the Emergency Docket on the day the matter will be heard.
     iv. Wherever practicable, all proceedings shall be conducted remotely, using telephonic or other electronic means, without the necessity of in-person court appearances.
     v. If it is not practicable to conduct these proceedings with all necessary individuals appearing remotely, the necessary individuals unable to appear remotely shall appear in person, unless the appearance is waived by the presiding judge.

* This update was added to this text on March 26, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
     Essential circuit court criminal proceedings in Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties will be heard in those counties, rather than in Alachua County, unless determined otherwise by the assigned judge; and this clarifies that any hearing, regardless of type, may take place if conducted entirely remotely, with no in-person appearances.*


Alachua County Family and Civil Justice Center
     i. Juvenile Detention Hearings.
     ii. Dependency Shelter Hearings.
     iii. A Family/Civil Emergency Docket, immediately following Detention Hearings and preceding Shelter Hearings, to address “essential court proceedings” in all Alachua County family and civil cases (circuit and county) and all family and circuit civil cases in Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union Counties. “Essential court proceedings” are defined as; Appointment of Emergency Temporary Guardian; Vulnerable Adult Injunctions, Adult Protective Services proceedings, “Do not resuscitate” proceedings, Seizure of bodily fluid proceedings, and other matters which the Court determines to be of an urgent nature.
     iv. Placement of a matter on the Family/Civil Emergency Docket must be approved by, and coordinated with, the office of the judge assigned to the case. If the assigned judge determines the matter meets the criteria set forth in the paragraph above, the case will be set on the next Family/Civil Emergency Docket at which the assigned judge is presiding, and the judicial assistant will so advise the Clerk of the Court and Court Administration. If the assigned judge determines that the exigencies of the case require the matter to be heard at an earlier date, the case may be set on the next available Family/Civil Emergency Docket. In that event, the judicial assistant shall also notify the office of the judge assigned to preside over the Emergency Docket on the day the matter will be heard.
     v. Alachua County Domestic Violence Injunction Hearings (including repeat, sexual, dating violence and stalking injunction) and Risk Protection Order hearings, will be heard in a separate proceeding on Thursday mornings.
     vi. All proceedings related to the current public health emergency, such as violation of quarantine, travel limitations, closing of buildings, or curfews, will be heard by the Chief Judge or his designee at a time to be determined.
     vii. Wherever practicable, these proceedings shall be conducted remotely, using telephonic or other electronic means, without the necessity of in-person court appearances.
     viii. If it is not practicable to conduct these proceedings with all necessary individuals appearing remotely, the necessary individuals unable to appear remotely shall appear in person, unless the appearance is waived by the presiding judge.
Regional Counties
     i. One First Appearance shall be conducted for Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties each day, the location of which shall be rotated among the five counties each weekday. First Appearance shall include Dependency Shelter Hearings for all regional counties.
     ii. A Regional Emergency/DV Docket, immediately following First Appearance, to address Domestic Violence Injunction Hearings (including repeat, sexual, dating violence and stalking injunction), Risk Protection Order hearings, and other county court matters the Court determines to urgent in that county.
     iii. Wherever practicable, these proceedings shall be conducted remotely, using telephonic or other electronic means, without the necessity of inperson court appearances.
     iv. If it is not practicable to conduct these proceedings with all necessary individuals appearing remotely, the necessary individuals who are unable to appear remotely shall appear in person, unless the appearance is waived by the presiding judge.
     3. Protocols for weekend and holiday First Appearance shall remain unchanged.
     4. No proceedings, other than those set forth above, or those specifically approved by the Chief Judge, shall take place unless they are conducted entirely remotely, using telephonic or other electronic means, with no in-person appearances by parties, attorneys, clerks, court reporters, or any other individuals.
     5. In conducting any court proceedings, all practicable methods to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure shall be employed; including permitting only those persons essential to the proceeding to enter the courtroom, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces both before and after the proceeding, using the hallways or additional courtrooms as waiting areas, and dispersing those present in the courtroom to a safe distance.
     6. Any person, regardless of status, who is exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or any person who has been in contact with another person who has tested positive for COVID-19, shall be prohibited from entering any court facility without the express permission of the Chief Judge or the Trial Court Administrator.
     7. To the extent they may be inconsistent, this Administrative Order supersedes all prior Administrative Orders and Directives entered herein.
     The Eighth Judicial Circuit includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties.

THIRD JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
     Regarding the Third Judicial Circuit, as noted in information provided by Chief Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Mark E. Feagle, where guidelines are extended beyond March 27, without a requirement for further orders to be issued, people involved with Third Judicial Circuit Court proceedings will note the following:
     1. Courthouse security shall limit persons from entering the courthouses unless said persons are there for a legitimate reason. For example, parties to the case, persons who have been summoned or subpoenaed and the case is still at issue, persons seeking relief via injunctions, and the like. In some counties, one or more constitutional offices are located within the courthouse. Persons renewing a tag or license or recording deeds are fuliher examples of legitimate business that I (Circuit Court Judge Feagle) am not attempting to restrict. When completed with their business, they shall immediately exit the courthouse. Security is given broad discretion in making these decisions but shall reach out to the Chief Judge or their local Judge for additional advice or directions as needed.
     2. For all large dockets in circuit and county court, such as arraignments, pre-trials, and VOP dockets, defense counsel (to the best of their abilities) shall advise their clients that the defendant's appearance is waived from March 16, 2020, through March 27, 2020, unless the defendant is prepared to enter a plea or other disposition has been agreed to with the State Attorneys shall appear on their client's behalf and will be responsible for informing their client of the next court date.
     3. All court appearances for those in-custody shall be conducted by videoconferencing where available. If videoconferencing is unavailable, or otherwise unreasonable, in-custody court appearances shall take place after non-custody defendants' cases have been resolved.
     "Thank you for your understanding and your assistance in helping to implement these temporary changes in order to help protect our Third Judicial Circuit," Judge Feagle noted.
      The Third Judicial Circuit includes Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties.
FIFTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
     Additionally, Fifth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. noted the circuit courts there are closed.
     The following hearings will be conducted during the closure:
First Appearance Hearings, Shelter Hearings, Baker Act Hearings, Marchman Act Hearings, Emergency Guardianship Hearings, Risk Protection Order Hearings, Juvenile Detention Hearings, Initial Domestic Violence Injunction Hearings and any other matter that is determined to be related to the immediate and imminent health, welfare, and safety of an individual or the general public.
     All hearings are to be conducted via electronic communication to the maximum extent feasible.
     Here is the link to the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Florida -- https://www.circuit5.org/.
     The Fifth Judicial Circuit includes Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties.
     PUBLISHER’S NOTE: There are 20 judicial circuits in Florida. These three circuits are those where HardisonInk.com focuses, although there are no limits or bounds to the coverage area of the daily news website.

 


Cedar Key shuts down
as tight as a closed clam;

Boat ramps and fishing piers
are closed to visitors too

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 25, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.
     CEDAR KEY –
A unanimous vote by the Cedar Key City Commission members on Monday (March 23) during a special meeting to close Cedar Key to everyone except residents and essential personnel, according to a recent press release and an emergency declaration.
     The media, press and journalists of any kind are prohibited from crossing the bridge into Cedar Key, too, unless they are residents of the island town.
     City Commissioner Jim Wortham made the motion, which was seconded by Royce Nelson to adopt the resolution closing the island to all people except residents and essential workers. Voting in favor of the Wortham-Nelson motion were Mayor Heath Davis, Vice Mayor Sue Colson and City Commissioner Susan Rosenthal, according to a person at the special meeting.
     There was no one in City Hall on Wednesday morning who could say who made the motion, second and who voted in favor of the city lockdown.
     The island community strives to reduce the odds of residents catching COVID-19. (By the way, “virus” is part of COVID-19, so it is redundant to say COVID-10 virus.)
     The City of Cedar Key imposed the mandatory restricted entry protocol for the city and its residents as of noon yesterday (Tuesday, March 24).
     Entry onto the island will be regulated at the west side of the Number 4 Bridge.
     Residents, business owners, and employees will be allowed access onto the island. Deliveries to the food pantries or businesses will be permitted as well.
     As for hotels, motels, and condominium associations, the patrons who are already registered and on-site will be allowed to
remain. No new reservations are to be allowed, and the City Commissions asks that these businesses cancel any standing reservations.
      The city boat ramps and fishing piers are closed for any
pleasure fishing.
     Non-residential owners of property in Cedar Key will be permitted a one-time visit to evaluate the status of their property.
     Until all declarations have been lifted, the City Commission requests that all nonessential people refrain from coming to Cedar Key.
     City Attorney Norm Fugate drafted the resolution. City Clerk Crystal Sharp provided the press release.
     Cedar Key Police Chief Virgil Sandlin is leading the effort to guard the entrance to the city from unauthorized visitors.

 


Chiefland closes City Hall lobby,
Community Center and parks

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 25, 2020 at 7:10 a.m.
     CHIEFLAND –
City Manager Mary Ellzey took the reins regarding COVID-19 on Monday night (March 23) after Chiefland Mayor Chris Jones opened the meeting.
     By a 5-0 vote, all city parks are closed effective immediatley and until further notice. The City Hall lobby at Chiefland is closed, and business can be conducted through the drive-through window.
     Closing City Hall was City Manager Elzzey’s first recommendation as she spoke about the safety and health of employees and customers. All business required of staff will be completed through the drive-through window on the north end of City Hall, as well as via telephone and Internet. 
     Closing the Tommy Usher Community Center was her second recommendation. One person who had booked the facility for Saturday (March 28) had planned to have 50 people, and that event was cancelled, Ellzey said.
     Closing the Chiefland baseball and softball fields was her third recommendation. A tournament there a week and a half ago was the last time more than 10 people were there in close proximity, she said. Several people from Gainesville came to that event. Alachua County has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases of the neighboring counties.
     No one from Gainesville requested permission to use the field for the tournament, Ellzey said, and apparently they were unable to read the sign that posts that alcoholic beverages are not permitted because there was beer consumed on the premises, as reflected by garbage cans with used beer containers in them.
     Ellzey asked that City Council close the playground, basketball court and ball fields at Strickland Park and at Buie Park.
     The Delma Locke Playground and Skate Park are not seeing that much traffic, Ellzey said, however she recommended closing the walk-through gate at the skatepark as well.
     City Commissioner Norman Weaver made the motion to follow City Manager Ellzey’s recommendations and close all of the facilities she mentioned until further notice to protect the residents and visitors of Chiefland, and Weaver’s Motion was seconded by City Commissioner Lewrissa Mainwaring received positive votes from Mayor Jones, Vice Mayor Tim West and City Commissioner Rollin Hudson.
     Ellzey said people can park in the parking lot of Strickland Park, but they cannot enter the park.
      As for future City Commission meetings for people to attend and participate via teleconference, City Attorney Blake Fugate said, that is a possibility. If the future meeting is to be held in this manner, then it must be advertised in advance that is the case.
    The public must be able to listen and participate as much as possible in the same manner as a normal meeting, Fugate said.
     The City Commission can choose not to meet, Ellzey said.
     The next regular Chiefland City Commission meeting would be on April 13. Vice Mayor West said he thinks the meeting should occur.
     Attorney Fugate said the meeting in the room can be scheduled as it is now, however if there is an order from the federal or state government to not meet in closed rooms or other prohibitions, he recommends that staff conduct research for alternative methods to meet – such as teleconferencing.
     City Manager Ellzey said she will conduct research for meeting alternatives in case that needs to happen.

 


Levy County Courthouse
closes until further notice

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 24, 2020 at 9:10 a.m.
     BRONSON --
After discussion the current COVID-19 situation with the Levy County Clerk of Court, Property Appraiser, Sheriff, County Coordinator, and Emergency Management staff, Levy County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks has approved the temporary closure of public access to the Levy County Courthouse, effective immediately (Tuesday, March 24), according to a press release from Levy County Emergency Management sent at 8:36 a.m. on March 24.
     Levy County Clerk Danny Shipp and Levy County Property Appraiser Osborn "Oz" Barker are committed to serving the public and have asked for anyone desiring business with their offices please call first for instructions on how they can assist, the press release noted.
     The phone number for the Office of Clerk of Court Shipp is 352-486-5266.
      The phone number for the Office of  Property Appraiser Barker is 352-486-5222.
     Below is a list of limited access services that will continue:
* Injunctions, Baker Acts
     The Clerk's Office requests that only the petitioner come into the Lobby of the Levy County Courthouse. Petitioners can find the forms on the website to complete prior to coming to the Courthouse: https://www.levyclerk.com/online-forms/
* Traffic citations and court fines payment
     Payments can be made through the website at https://www.myfloridacounty.com/courtpay/?county=38 or for just traffic https://www3.myfloridacounty.com/traffic_tickets/index.html or call the office at 352-486-5266.
* For forms necessary for filing
     Please visit the website: https://www.levyclerk.com/online-forms/.
     Please call theoffice at 352-486-5266 for instructions for filing.
     Individuals can access filing through the Portal. Please visit https://www.myflcourtaccess.com/ for instructions on becoming a user/filer.
* Marriage license
     The Clerk's Office requests that individuals call the office and make an appointment. Visit the website for further information: https://www.levyclerk.com/marriage-license/.
*Access to a drop off box will be available for official records and paper court pleadings.
     For any more information, please contact the Levy County Clerk of Court Office at 352-486-5266.

 


Levy County Supervisor
of Elections Office offers
in-person service by appt. only

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 23, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
     LEVY COUNTY –
Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones changed the procedure for her office effective immediately, according to a press release sent this morning (Monday, March 23).
     The office will suspend normal in-person services to the public from today (March 23) through April 15, with updates given as that date draws closer, Jones said. This change in operations results from the seriousness of COVID-19 and that state’s efforts to reduce the odds for spreading the disease.
     ● Voter services will be available on the web at https://www.votelevy.gov/, by email at tammy@votelevy.com, or by mail via the United States Postal Service at 421 S. Court St. Bronson, FL 32621.
     ● Campaigns and other groups that have candidate petitions or Florida Voter Registration Applications can submit them by pre-arranged appointment.
    ● Contact the Levy County Supervisor of Elections Office at tammy@votelevy.com or call 352-486-5163.
    ● During this closure, in-person services to the public will be by appointment only.
     ● The Levy County Canvassing Board and public meetings are currently continuing as scheduled. These activities and schedules, however, are subject to change too.
     “We appreciate your patience!” Levy County Supervisor of Elections Jones noted in the press release.

 


Dixie County
Tax Collector's lobby
closed until further notice

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 23, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
     DIXIE COUNTY --
Dixie County Tax Collector Michelle F. Cannon announced today (Monday, March 23) that effective immediately, the Dixie County Tax Collector’s Office lobby will be closed to the public until further notice.
     While the lobbies will be closed to the public, customers can continue to process tax payments online at http://dixiecountytaxcollector.com/, driver’s license and tag renewals at https://services.flhsmv.gov/VirtualOffice/, through the mail, or by phone at 352-498-1213.
     “To minimize exposure to COVID-19 and help protect customers and employees, the governor has recommended that all state facilities be closed to the public beginning Thursday, March 19, until Sunday, April 19," Cannon said. "The health and wellbeing of our community is my top priority. I will continue to closely monitor this situation and adjust accordingly. Employees will be available to assist our Dixie County residents during regular business hours 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday by phone only.”
     All Florida drivers’ licenses and identification cards set to expire in the next 30 days from March 16 will be granted a 30-day extension beyond their current expiration date. This Executive Order by Gov. Ron DeSantis extends the effective period of all driver licenses and identification cards that will expire between March 16 and April 15, 2020, for 30 days. In addition, delinquent fees will be waived during the extension period, Cannon noted in an email on Monday afternoon.

 


Florida state parks
closed effective immediately

DEP Press Office
Published March 23, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
     TALLAHASSEE –
Today (Monday, March 23), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced that at the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis and to successfully uphold Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to maximize social distancing and avoid gatherings larger than 10 people, DEP will close all Florida State Parks to the public effective Monday, March 23.
     DEP has taken many measures to continue providing resource recreation at the state parks during this time, such as limiting operating hours and reducing visitor capacity at parks with high visitation. Unfortunately, this has not resulted in the reductions needed to best protect public health and safety as Florida continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
     The Florida DEP appreciates the public’s cooperation and understanding as it works to prioritize the welfare of communities and staff. Florida parks employees noted that they look forward to welcoming people again to the award-winning state parks as soon as possible.
     For additional information on Florida State Parks, please contact 850-245-2157.

 


Williston City Hall lobby
closed until further notice

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 23, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.
     WILLISTON –
Williston City Hall is closed as of noon today, Williston City Manager Scott Lippmann noted in an email sent at 10:58 a.m. today (Monday, March 23, 2020).
     “You can still reach us by phone and email,” Lippmann noted. “If you have a payment, use the drop box at the front of City Hall for all payments.  If you are paying in cash, we will credit the entire amount to your bill; no change will be given; or, pay your utility bill online.”
     The city manager noted that the city’s website contains an icon which enables individuals to pay through the Internet. That website is hyperlinked to the ads for the city which are on each of the seven pages of HardisonInk.com. Simply click on the ad, and a separate window will open on the Williston City website.
     Lippmann noted another way to pay is by people using online banking/bill pay services provided by their banks or financial institutions.
     All city services will continue – water, sewer, gas, electric and trash pickup, as well as all emergency services, Lippmann noted.
     “We receive frequent updates with the latest information and recommendations related to COVID-19,” Lippmann said.
     He said the city administration and employees intend to to act in the best interests of Williston’s residents and visitors based on the information they receive.

    


Nature Coast Florida
Master Gardeners’
Back the Blue Project stands as
a testament to working together

Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office Master Gardners
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 22, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
     GILCHRIST COUNTY –
As shown in the original story with photos by Christine Hentschel, which was published on Aug. 14, 2019 the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office received some significant landscape improvements back then.
     A recent visit to the GCSO parking lot (on Sunday, March 22), provided photo opportunities to see the that project still exists as an attractive addition to the Trenton headquarters of the GCSO.
     To read the first story click HERE.

Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office Back The Blue

Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office Back The Blue
Hoses are hidden among the landscaping for the most efficient irrigation, while helping the project remain attractive.

Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office Back The Blue

This side view shows the rest of the Crown Victoria is not there. In the left part of this picture, there is a faucet where the water goes to the plants through a hose.

Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office Back The Blue

Some of the many blooming plants are seen on Sunday (March 22).



     As noted earlier, “100 percent of the cost of the specialty planter created from a Crown Victoria detective’s car trunk was donated by Gilchrist County Recycling.”
     As noted, the specialty planter, made from the trunk of a detective’s car, anchors the front garden. It is the creation of Dan Beyer from Gilchrist Recycling.
     The visit on Sunday shows the method for irrigation of the plants is the most environmentally friendly and efficient method.
     Also as previously noted the core group of Nature Coast Master Gardeners (Gilchrist, Levy and Dixie counties) carrying out all the tasks for this project are Sue Stockman, Linda Rees Gurney, Melissa Mauer, Susan Harris, Mary Tracy and Christine Hentschel.

Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office Back The Blue
While reviewing the status of the late summer of 2019 project, the foot of the flagpole at the GCSO headquarters is noticed, and that is where this plaque is placed from the dedication of that pole in 2003. That plaque says, 'In Honor and Remembrance of the heroes and victims of September 11, 2001 and to celebrate the enduring spirit of all Americans. Presented by members of Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society. September 11, 2003.'

To read the first story by Christine Hentschel click HERE.

 


Commissioner of agriculture
asks governor
to issue ‘stay-at-home’ order

Communications Office of Commissioner Nikki Fried
Published March 21, 2020 at 7:10 a.m.
     TALLAHASSEE –
Yesterday (Friday, March 20), Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nicole "Nikki" Fried, a member of the Florida Cabinet, asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to implement a statewide "stay-at-home" order in response to dramatically increasing COVID-19 cases in the state.
     "I want to recognize the difficult choices the governor has had to make in this public health crisis,” Fried said. “No governor in recent history would have expected to have to make a decision like California, New York, or Illinois have made in the past 72 hours. Shutting down one of the nation’s largest states is a decision that will have an economic impact – but it is a decision that will save lives.
     “Based on the data, we know we (the people of Florida) are a week behind California's vast increase in COVID-19 cases. The individuals and businesses I've spoken with are growing more anxious by the day. As the nation's third largest state, we need to go further, and we cannot afford to lose another week,” she continued.
     “I am asking the governor to consider implementing a statewide ‘stay-at-home’ order, closing all non-essential businesses for a reasonable timeframe, after which time the situation could be reassessed. A piecemeal approach of closing certain communities and businesses risks sowing further confusion. I encourage the governor to take this decisive action today to save lives and preserve Florida's economy for our shared future. I will stand by the governor should he make this difficult decision, and I implore him to do so now,” she concluded.


 

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122nd Set Of Jingle Performers


The newest performers of the HardisonInk.com jingle is a replay of the 61st set of performers. Seven members of Fanning Springs Fire Rescue including Chief Ron McQueen, Deputy Chief Elania Spain, Firefighter Chris Anderson, Firefighter Brett Boyce, Firefighter Steven Edgell, Firefighter Mike MacKenzie and Firefighter Chella Decker perform the jingle here.  (Roy Spain and Quinn Lesher were performing other duties at the moment). This was on the evening of Aug. 1, 2015, after the 35th Annual Award Banquet. Everyone is invited to sing the HardisonInk.com jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to hardisonink@gmail.com. He asks people to sing the jingle, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published March 31, 2020 @ 8:10 a.m.

© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved

 

Your weather just got better.


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