Over the past several weeks, while tracking the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the city limits and talking with local public health experts, City staff simultaneously has been contemplating how to safely enter the economic recovery phase.
We want to help small businesses make their reopening as simple and safe as possible. To that end, today’s extension of the emergency order relaxes some Zoning Code requirements to explore the possibility for more outdoor dining options.
Requirements that may be temporarily eased include: allowing off-street parking spaces to be considered for outdoor dining and allowing tents to be erected for outdoor dining in appropriate areas.
Businesses will be facing an indoor capacity of just 25 percent of their building occupancy under the governor’s order, so helping them move outdoors in an organized manner makes sense. Safety will remain key with all social distancing requirements in place and protective masks strongly encouraged in public.
During the City Commission meeting Monday, May 4, a small business assistance program, in the form of a proposed grant program, will be discussed. The initiative, as currently conceived, would help stabilize struggling small businesses with an up to $5,000 grant to cover the cost of sanitizer, masks, rent, operations and vendor bills. $2.2 million in economic development and TIF funds have been identified which could potentially assist up to 400 brick-and-mortar small businesses.
The Commission meeting will be a video conference starting at 1:30 p.m. and can be viewed online at www.SarasotaFL.Gov.
In the last edition of Weekly Briefs, we asked the community to participate in a short survey to help guide the safe reopening of businesses and restore the health of the local economy.
The number of respondents was impressive –1,400 responses in just five days. A big thank you to all who participated!
Some salient points:
71% – masks should be required in public until the COVID-19 threat has passed
85% – agree that fast, convenient and affordable COVID-19 testing will be important or extremely important to restore public health and the economy
93% – say it’s important or extremely important for a business to implement social distancing spacing until the risk of COVID-19 minimizes
89% – say it’s important or extremely important that a business tests the temperature of their employees each day and offers testing when there is an elevated temperature
86% – say it’s important or extremely important that the employees of a business wear a protective mask
These results are being considered to help develop the best reopening possible for businesses.
Thanks again for taking the time to respond. And thank you to City staff, especially in the Human Resources Department, for going above and beyond to quickly assemble and disseminate the survey, and compile the results in a timely fashion while juggling many other projects and responsibilities.
Neighborhood Testing Continues
In the meantime, the number of positive cases in the city limits is going up.
Rosemary District resident David Lough took it upon himself to start charting the cases and he’s been generously sharing his work with us. These visuals show the increases in positive cases in Sarasota by zip code. As I interpret the data with input from public health professionals, it’s evident we need to be cautious and strictly adhere to social distancing as we begin the governor’s Phase I recovery plan.
This week, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County hosted two more rounds of community-based testing in North Sarasota testing almost 150 patients, and another has already been announced for Tuesday, May 5 at Robert L. Taylor Community Complex. The same rules will apply to be tested: You must work in a health care setting or currently be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell).
You also must have an appointment. To make one, please call 941-861-2883 Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. While it is designated as a drive-thru site, walkers and bicyclists can be accommodated.
We’d like to express our gratitude to Chuck Henry, Director of the Health Department in Sarasota County, for ensuring neighborhood testing sites are available in Sarasota.