Flagler County government today announced the reopening of all 18 miles of beaches in the county, including Flagler Beach’s, but only for a few hours a day and with activities limited to exercise and steady motion–no sunbathing, no large-group or extended socializing, no lounging. The county and the city are prepared to re-impose the 24-hour ban on beach use if residents don’t follow social-distancing rules as the coronavirus emergency continues.
Flagler County Commissioners spoke of the reopening at their virtual meeting Monday as a tentative step. But commissioners and officials have different views on how far and how fast that reopening should go. Commission Chairman Dave Sullivan is stressing that reopening businesses is a “two-edged sword,” with distancing and masks in public essential if resumptions will be made to work. Emergency Management Chief Jonathan Lord echoed Sullivan’s call to wear masks in public. A less cautious approach is illustrated by Commissioner Joe Mullins, who is pushing for a broader reopening while claiming that “our homes have been made cells.”
The beach reopening will be limited to 7 to 10 a.m. daily in Flagler Beach and unincorporated beaches, with an additional 6 to 8 p.m. window in the unincorporated areas, plus Beverly Beach and Marineland. The Flagler Beach Pier will remain closed at all times. Parking along the boardwalk will remain prohibited, so as to prevent any social gatherings along the boardwalk or at the picnic tables there. Fishing will only be permitted north of 10th Street North or south of 10th Street South.
“I don’t want to give the impression that we’re opening the county. We’re not,” Sullivan sad in a brief interview today. “Flagler County and Florida are not in Phase One yet. Period.”
Sullivan was referring to the different phases laid out in the White House’s “Guidelines Opening Up America Again,” issued last week. The guidelines outline a phased approach, with Phase One still calling on the vulnerable and elderly to shelter in place, gatherings outside limited to 10 people or less, social distancing rules still applying, and the minimization of non-essential travel. Bars would remain closed, gyms could open with strict physical distancing rules, and hospitals could resume elective surgeries on an outpatient basis. Phases two and three relax many strictures while still keeping in place a series of distancing and hygiene protocols.
The new order applying to Flagler County’s beaches is a reflection of the same phased-in, localized approach to an eventual opening, applying to the county’s most sought-after amenity.
“What we’re attempting to accomplish is to recognize that we’re moving into a transition period,” County Attorney Al Hadeed said, “that it is going to be based on public health considerations, resources that we have to monitor, or manage resources that are open to the public, that we’ve got to perform these things in coordination with the municipalities–not necessarily that we’re all doing exactly the same thing, but rather each of the general service local governments have the ability to tailor the transition that they want to undertake, that meet their particular needs, the needs of their population, their resources, and the character of the public facilities that they have.”
The new order still leaves the county administrator–Jerry Cameron–in charge of making the final call regarding county beaches, but it leaves it to municipalities to tailor their own approaches. The order is “based on the evidence that is available to the county administrator, particularly with respect to public safety, the spread of the virus, whether it is being contained, what are numbers are showing, combined with how our public is respecting the guidance that we placed on their use of the facilities,” Hadeed said.
The county is not explaining how it will gauge or judge whether the public is following the rules, with so far Hadeed and County Health Department Chief Bob Snyder offering anecdotal evidence, based on what they’ve observed or heard, to say that residents are, in fact, abiding by the rules. The observations are by nature highly subjective, and contradict observations by Sullivan and Lord who reported the absence of masks by workers in high-traffic areas, such as take-out restaurants, the grocery store or–based on his doctor’s visit today–at a physician’s office. Siullivan was especially stunned by the presence of three people in the doctor’s waiting room, mask-less. (He was wearing one.)
The county did not vote on the new order but approved it by consensus. The order may be amended as time goes by. It also applies to county buildings and other county facilities.
The discussion then turned to reopening society, with some factual confusion.
“We need to get things opened up,” Commissioner Greg Hansen said. “Governor of Kentucky has now said their state is going to open up.” (In fact, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has not ordered the economy reopened. Rather, last Friday he outlined the benchmarks that must be met before reopening, including 14 days of decreases in new Covid-19 cases, increased capacity for testing and contact tracing, and several other steps first. “We could see the ability to open up in some small ways before May, during May and beyond,” the governor said, “but this will be a phased approach based on our benchmarks and recommendations from many groups.”
Hansen himself acknowledged that the community is not ready for reopening. “But we’re killing our small businesses, we’re killing our restaurants, and our hair salons and our nail salons and our barber shops,” he said. “So I really hope that we can keep marching ahead and gradually open up more and more stuff.”
Commissioner Donald O’Brien did a Facebook “poll” on Monday. Support for reopening the beaches within restrictive guidelines appeared to win (the poll is actually a string of 200 comments, each saying whether they want the beaches opened or kept closed). O’Brien said he was criticized for it, in that “public opinion is not really listening to experts, that we’re only supposed to listen to experts like the CDC and the department of health,” he said (echoing a comment by Palm Coast City Council member Nick Klufas). But he defended the approach.
“Citizens,” O’Brien said, “they’re their own experts, they’re experts in their own lives, and we do listen to them, and public opinion in its entirety is a data point, and that’s one of the things we do have to consider as we make these very tough choices.” He said commissioners were not taking the decision lightly or for political motivations.
Sullivan said “getting our businesses open is absolutely critical, but it’s a two-edged sword.” He cited the necessary steps before opening, failing which communities could have difficult setbacks. “We have to continue the social distancing and testing, because if we don’t do that, the opening of the businesses will not go well. We have to go down both sides of the track on this, and if we don’t do that, we’ll fail both ways. I just wanted to reiterate to everybody that yes, we’re moving forward, angog to get our businesses and parks and everything open as soon as we can, but it’s not going to work unless we continue to really agree to the social distancing, wearing masks when you’re in public places, which I have noticed is not done at Home Depot. I was there over the weekend, or even at Publix, not everybody is wearing a mask.”
As of today, Florida was nearing 28,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 4,226 hospitalizations. The state added 778 cases today. Flagler had 78 cases and eight hospitalizations. The hospitalization number is cumulative. It does not reflect the number of people who have been discharged, or the two residents who have died of Covid-19, but were previously hospitalized.
While two Flagler County residents who have contracted the disease work at a nursing home facility or an assisted living facility, they do so out of the county. No facility within the county has had a case affecting a resident or a staff member within it.
Testing continues in the county, with 70 tests administered in the last two days, according to the Department of Health’s figures, for a total of 1,054, or just under 1 percent of the county’s population.
Commissioner Charlie Ericksen during Monday’s meeting asked Lord about Sunday’s FlaglerLive article pointing out the return of 650 test kits that could not be used locally, and reporting on the inaccuracy of a county government claim that testing had increased 75 percent last week. Lord did not dispute the reporting, saying only that the figures depend on which base figures are used for the calculation. (While testing increased between week two and week three, it did not increase between week three and week four, which was last week.)
But instead of correcting the county’s mistake, Cameron, the county administrator, doubled down on false claims. He had made false claims against FlaglerLive’s article during emergency management’s daily 10:30 a.m. call with county and municipal officials Monday. He did not allude to the news service directly at the commission meeting, but said that “pseudo-media outlets” were hurting the credibility of the county, saying that “for people to be irresponsible enough to try to destroy trust and the people that are managing this crisis, is just unconscionable.”
Cameron, who has a history of shifting blame to media for his own administration’s missteps, did not say how the reporting was inaccurate. Nor did he say so in an email asking him to outline what he saw as inaccurate within an hour of the meeting. He did not respond to a follow-up email again asking him to back up his claim.
make sure everyone remembers the names of the people making these decisions and vote them out of office volusia an brevard never closed the elected officials have common sense turn off the mainstream news and and think for yourself and ote these people out of office they are a joke
CB from PC says
What did the Ocean say to the Flagler Citizens on the beach ignoring social distancing?
Nothing, it just waved.
Exactly, and the parks, pier and other locations are still closed to mass parking. Those on Facebook seem to think they’re going to load up their families and be able to use the beaches like pre-quarantined, take over as a critical mass of humanity. Boy are they in for a big surprise ? This effectively makes the beaches usable to those that actually live in the areas at certain hours and they will be required to keep moving rather than loiter. 2 Bridges in & out and spaced 5+ miles apart. That means anyone that can’t get over those bridges in either direction by foot, skateboard or bike will be challenged physically to make it to the beach. Me, I’m a metric century plus cyclist, I’ll take the bridge seated and if I’m so inclined to make it challenging, St Augustine to the North or Ponce Inlet to the South might be a couple of hours with favorable winds. Although going there would be pointless beyond exercise/training ride, if there’s really nothing open to make a day trip of it.
Judith G Patterson says
Hansen and Mullins have to take off their red MAGA hat, let the blood flow through their brains and think logically. Flagler County’s numbers have increased over the last week, we have an elderly population which is most at risk and have a small hospital. And you readily admit people aren’t wearing masks to protect others. You follow that up with “let’s open up the county.” How stupid. We have not met the criteria laid out by the head MAGA guy in Washington — we do not have declining numbers for 14 days. They have only risen!
Mike Cocchiola says
i HAVE LOST ALL CONFIDENCE
I have lost all confidence in Cameron. We need a county administrator that lives in Flagler and is trustworthy. Time to reconsider his appointment.
Thank you to the smart people (everyone other than Mullens). Look at Singapore. A model for how a country handled COVID. They eased social distancing far too soon and now look at them, they had to shut down again. Do people want an endless cycle of open/close/open/close for months and months? I don’t. Do this proper and you won’t fall backwards. Do it hasty and people will end up like some of these protestors now testing positive for COVID after gathering en masse around the country. KY had a HUGE spike in cases, almost 300, and yes, many of them were protesting. I also read a story today about a man from OH that mocked COVID, said it was political, and a hoax, and guess what? He died…from COVID. This is real and deadly. It has killed more people in one month then the flu has killed in nine months. Take your heads out of the orange buffoons backside long enough to see how serious this is for humans. There is only one guarantee is life and that is death (I’d say taxes as well, but some people find creative ways of avoiding that). I will take a few months of financial pain in order to live 50-60 more years with the only life I was blessed with. I hope common sense prevails and reopens Flagler at a sensible pace.
BTW—I hear Publix is hiring and many of the COVID infections from this state are happening in grocery stores, so, go on, get a job there and deal with masses of potential infected over and over like the brave workers there do daily. Don’t say there aren’t jobs while your waiting for yours. There are plenty out there.
mark stevens says
The last 3 paragraphs say it all: it is unfortunate that we cannot trust our current elected officials to be truthful.
William Daly says
To whom it may concern:
Please, please, please reopen the beaches along with the Flagler Beach golf course. This action will provide “all” of the residents with some great outdoor exercise, along with a little well-deserved enjoyment. Plus, it can still maintain social distancing.
Thank you very much,
Bill Daly and Marianne
What do you know, boomers screamed as loud as they could and got something handed to them, again. The majority of the county is elderly, so sure, go ahead and open it up. We’ll have a big housing boom next year.
Do not allow vacation rentals to operate until Florida moves into phase two. Right now Flagler County is trending upward. Sure we all want to see our businesses open. But do not bend to pressure. Before we can move into phase one this County and the State must see a downward trend for 14 days. This is particularly important when you are deciding on opening indoor facilities. Commissioner’s must use their common sense and base your decisions on data.
Bob Ziolkowski says
Walking on the beach here is not like on the beaches of Volusia and St. Johns, which are flat – we have to wait for low tide, or close to it, since there are so many rocks and uneven beaches. At the very least there should be another window to use the beach, such as 1-3pm. Personally, the beach should be open all of the time since this is the quietest time of year here. And even if they were opened all hours many would not go since they feel they are safer at home, which I and most people do not believe but that is fine since no one should be told when or when not to use the beach. Otherwise, if it helped start opening up businesses I would be all for wearing a mask in public places that are enclosed, but not in my car with the windows up as I see some. If someone feels better doing that I will not argue with them since that is their private place but again, if it takes a mandate to wear them in public I think most would be happy to do that if it meant opening some businesses.
Proud american says
We can read the data also. This has already peeked. Keep precautions for the elderly, pre-existing conditions, high risk, etc…but the rest of us should not be kept prisoners anymore.
You’re killing our businesses, our mental health, our special moments.
Did you know it is worse for your health to be inside than out?
The beach, our beautiful trails and parks are not germ infested. It’s fresh air, sunlight, and open space.
Look at the data, look at the charts.
We need to go to the dentist, get our checkups, Go to church, we need to live!
Palm Coasterr says
I wonder if you can delete comments on here…
since, ya know – 28 confirmed cases 2 days after this post.
You can’t even claim ITS BECAUSE OF MORE TESTING. MORE TESTING = MORE NUMBERS. We don’t know the exact peak yet until there is more comprehensive testing. Make sure you take the tinfoil hat off when you go to the beach, wouldn’t want weird tan lines.
It amazes me that first, you don’t want everyone together but you force everyone that wants to go to the beach to go at the same freaking time! Second, I will never understand closing trails and beaches anyway, why? Because it is safer to go to Walmart????? Hasn’t made one bit of sense since it all started. Absolutely zero common sense pertaining to this.
Dennis Beauchamp says
But people with people with influence and/or wealth will still be safe because they are too smart to be around other people until the Trained Medical people say it is safe. If Donald, Mitch and Ron are safe that is all that matters because they can continue to think for us. Think of this as a necessary thinning of the heard.
Now we are told that we can only fish when THEY think it’s best versus being able to fish the tides. BULLSHIT!
As all the scientists continue to say before it is safe for citizens is more testing, and that is what most people want more testing. Yes everyone wants to get back to work and a semi-normal life but please county officials do it wisely for the safety of the citizens you represent.
Joe Mullin once again sounds immature saying he feels “his home is a cell”. Pretty sad, I consider my home for me and my family a safe haven from not catching a virus and dying.
Number 8 says
Flagler County has the lowest virus numbers of all of central Florida. Brevard has 3 times the number cases and their beaches are open with the only restriction being gatherings of no more than 5 people. Keep it up, election day will be here soon enough. It’s time to clean house.
Gee golly says
Exactly , closed beaches in Flagler, less cases of covid. Open beaches in Broward, lots of cases of covid. See the pattern there?
Close the Beaches and Stay Home!
Very disappointing the Board of commissioners have not showed leadership on keeping public places closed. I’m not comfortable with them delegating these decisions to an administrator who cannot interpret the statistics associated with testing efforts. I also question why the county is involved in testing in the first place and not leaving that task to public health officials. I also am not convinced by what the department of health representative in Flagler County says as he is beholden to his masters in Tallahassee and is an at will employee, subject to the governor’s policies. We don’t have a lot of good information on this disease and so must be cautious. Unity seems beside the point as there are entire networks dedicated to undermining science, academia, government and the media.
Mike Cocchiola says
Please, everyone, caution! I urge that we listen to the responsible voices on the BOCC. But don’t count Joe Mullins among them.
Remember… the median age in Flagler County is around 51. The largest single age group is 65+ years old. That means much of Flagler is at terrible risk of contracting COVID-19, and their potential COVID-19 illness and death rates should be unacceptable here as in any community in America.
Yet there are those among us in Flagler who would risk their’s and our lives as a political statement. Trump followers led by Joe Mullins are determined to prematurely open what amount to fertile breeding grounds for the coronavirus – businesses that promote crowds in close quarters like bars and restaurants, theaters, sports venues, and the like. All without proper protective gear and procedures in place or concern for our lives just to follow their incompetent and very dangerous leader’s crazed pronouncements.
I hear Joe Mullins is sponsoring a “rally to reopen Flagler” on Saturday. Few if any participants will be taking proper safety precautions. If you even go out of curiosity you will be at risk and they won’t care.
PLEASE DO NOT LISTEN to the crazies. Do not support their rejection of medical science, their ignorance of the world around them, and their complete dismissal of the advice of educated and trained medical professionals. The crazies will happily sacrifice your life to reelect Trump. Stay safe until the real medical experts here in Flagler and at the national level give their blessing to a well-planned reopening of the economy. Your life is not worth saving one more pizza restaurant, bar or mattress outlet. It’s hard on them, but harder still to lose a family member, a neighbor, or a friend.
Thank you for exercising common sense!
DON”T BELIEVE THESE PHONY “GRASS-ROOTS” MOVEMENTS TO REOPEN!
Risking your life for Trump and the big-money right wingers?
Percy's mother says
Who ARE the “real medical experts”?
Anyone care to list them?
Are they the ones you see on TV?
Joe Mullin thrives on attention and will do anything to get Trump’s attention, he is want to be shoeshine boy for Trump.
Now he wants a rally in Flagler Beach I hope the officials there forbid that. And any idiot that attends is only causing germs to spread and then Flagler County virus rates will increase more which they are doing now without his careless rally. If he does this the County Commissioners need to remove him from office immediately for promoting unhealthy rallies in our county.
I am a taxpayer and I vote faithfully so, just remember that when permit this attention getter to proceed with his unsafe rally.
Mullins holding a rally to re open Flagler Beach is just a disguise to grovel to his bully Trump by doing Trump’s
bidding, that he sends out in code through his rants.
I don’t think it’s right that any county commissioners allow Mullins to have this type of rally. It is one thing, and his right, to verbally express his feelings about the issue, another to rally like a Trump wannabe. What a sickening bunch. Mullins is one of our so called “leaders” and shouldn’t be doing this. After all the HEALTH and SAFETY of all the citizens here in Flagler county is a non partisan issue and decisions should be made with that in mind.
How many people of you commenting on here actually go to the beach under normal circumstances??? Few, if any, of you. Use some logic, if you’re pissed about the beach being open…DON’T GO!!!! But I bet you’ll be the first in line at Publix or Walmart where the chances of getting the virus are much higher, mask and all!!
Bob Z says
I usually go every day and needless to say I am all for opening them fully (never should have closed IMO) and JM said he is not letting up until they are fully opened again…you go Joe!
Common sense would tell you that, the people who want the beach closed are using food delivary or curbside pickup. The people who want the beach open are the same standing in lines at grocery stores.
In my opinion the County has done an extremely poor job with handling this crisis. The truth is that we are seeing low numbers for two reasons . . . 1) BECAUSE things are shut down and people are staying in, and not in spite of that; 2) Because our Health Director has done a very poor job with testing. We probably have many more people infected.
This is a public health crisis that is no different than what comes with natural disasters likewildfires or hurricanes. The biggest difference is that we can’t physically see the thing. This is an aggressive and rapidly spreading disease in which there is no vaccine and no treatment. Hospitalizations remain above 10% (which is far far higher tan a regular flu), hospital stays are much longer, and all models prior to mitigation efforts pointed to rates as high as 80% infection in communities. None of those things have changed either, and most importantly there still is no vaccine or treatment. Therefore lifting restrictions without a clear plan based on science and facts and guided by professionals is both reckless and irresponsible. This is literally a matter of life and death in which over 40,000 innocent people have been lost to in just one month in our country and many many more every day. When in our Country’s history has 40,000+ Americans being killed not been a reason to take action and get serious? We have literally experienced about a 9/11 event every 4 days, more than 15 Afghanistan Wars, and about 8 Iraqi Wars. All of which we remember and pay homage to those who have bee lost, but for these over 40,000 Americans they are “expendable”?
I get the economic concerns, and agree that part needs to be addressed with a solid plan. But when the plan from the County is send the residents out there and let’s just see if a bunch of people get infected and die, that is not responsible leadership. When politics and political aspirations take priority over the safety and welfare of the public that is not responsible leadership, and it is clear that is a component of the motivations behind our Commission’s decisions. Right now we need a coordinated effort between the Cities and the County. We need consistent messaging. And we need and deserve a responsible plan of action that clearly defines the mitigation, conditions to begin relaxing restrictions, and the timeline and steps. What we don’t need is the reckless and irresponsible behavior we see right now from the County. Because the truth is what they are doing is how you get people killed, and a lot of them. In my opinion, any suffering and death in Flagler County from this disease is solely on our County Commissioners (David Sullivan, Greg Hansen, Joe Mullins, Charlie Erickson, and Donald O’Brien), County Administrator (Jerry Cameron), and County Health Director (Snyder). It is squarely on them.
Concerned Citizen says
Regardless of what is opened or closed.
Please stop throwing your used masks,gloves and wipes in parking lots and other places. Carry a trash bag or grocery bag in your vehicle. Bag it and toss it in the next available can or even better your own.
When you deposit said materials on others property you are littering. And believe itor not it is a criminal offense. Also how would you like it if I drove by your house and dumped my crap in your drive way. No? I didn’t think so. And if you don’t want to deal with your own used stuff do you think the poor cashier sent to clean the parking lot does?
I have heard many of you say “Oh but it’s job security”. No it’s not and your wrong. That’s just you being a self entitled ass hat. And saying it to make yourself justified in leaving your nasty stuff with someone else. Just stop already.
Maria Darcy says
WOW, There is so much fear in many of the comments, along with misinformation. Political affiliation , name calling, blame, do little to help us focus on how to take care of ourselves. To fight this virus you must have a strong immune system. A vaccine is a false sense of security, and not available. Social distancing is ridiculous as there are contradictory opinions on it’s effectiveness. It is unhealthy to wear a mask, and sometimes dangerous, as the mask becomes moist, holding bacteria against your face/mouth , the reason they are one use products or need to be sanitized after each use. With that said, instead of trying to control others and make decisions that defy logic. people should focus on their best defense, a strong , healthy, immune system. We can’t stay locked up forever, and those that carry the most fear and want to tell others what to do should focus instead on their own health. If you are fat, have a poor diet, get fewer than 8 hours of sleep each night, smoke, abuse alcohol, use drugs, get little to no cardio/physical activity, do not hydrate, lack coping skills to reduce stress, and don’t have regular checkups, you have more to worry about than who might be sitting on the beach. So go get healthy, this virus is going to be around awhile!
Bob Ziolkowski says
Amen! I see the people that are most vulnerable every day in Palm Coast, and most other places as well, and most of them could do something to improve their health, but they don’t and just come here to tell those that do what to do. Sure, healthy people have fallen very ill to the virus and even died but most of them do not. Maybe this will be a wake up call to the couch potatoes since being healthy will help against the next virus, and it will help in many other ways as well. It it time to start the process of reopening, slowly at first but it is time.
Calm down people. We have only been restricted for one month. You act as though you have been in prison for 20 years!