Flagler County is hosting a candlelight vigil at 4 p.m. Monday (May 17) to remember those residents who lost their lives to Covid-19. The ceremony will take place in front of the Government Services – inside if it rains. It is the first such commemoration by a local government in Flagler.
“The coronavirus pandemic has affected our ability to pay tribute to our loved ones who have died,” said Board of County Commissioners Chair Donald O’Brien. “One of the best ways to honor the collective grief we are experiencing because of the pandemic is by remembering those who died.”
As of May 13, in Flagler County alone, 111 residents had died of Covid since the beginning of the pandemic. All but 13 of them were 65 or older. The figure is not inclusive of numerous people lost to the disease who worked in Flagler and were an integral part of the Flagler-Palm Coast community, such as former Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Tom Russell, but who lived in an adjoining county. Florida has lost nearly 36,000 residents to Covid. The national total as of May 13 was 583,200, nearly the total number of deaths for the entirety of the U.S. Civil War’s four years. The pandemic has claimed 3.4 million lives across the globe. More people have died of the disease in the United States than in any other country (Brazil is second, with 428,000 deaths, and India third, with 259,500 deaths.)
The pandemic hasn’t only claimed lives, but also, for much of the pandemic’s first year, the norms of of sitting at the bedside of a dying loved one, of holding funerals or grieving communally. “Other types of loss,” the Centers for Disease Control states, “include unemployment, or not making enough money, loss or reduction in support services, and other changes in your lifestyle. These losses can happen at the same time, which can complicate or prolong grief and delay a person’s ability to adapt, heal, and recover.”
A diverse complement of religious leaders throughout Flagler County, representing Jewish and Christian faiths, will provide words of comfort and prayer:
- Kevin James, Palm Coast United Methodist Church
- James Bellitto, Church on the Rock
- Steve and Dianne Goldthorpe, Epic Church
- Charles Silano, Grace Tabernacle Ministries
- Rose Eberle, Temple Beth Shalom
- Manny Lopez, Santa Maria del Mar
- John Galloway, Calvary Palm Coast
- Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain Ed Reistetter
Battery-operated candles will be provided to all attendees. The ceremony will be streamed via Facebook Live at Facebook/FlaglerCountyGovernment for those who cannot attend in person. The Government Services Building is located at 1769 E. Moody Boulevard, Bunnell.
The county’s notice about the vigil does not include cautions or recommendations about physical distancing or masking. The county and Palm Coast lifted their masking requirements on government grounds last week. The Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control had still recommended that, even at outdoor events, particularly in larger crowds where the proportion of vaccinated people may not be high or may be unknown, that physical distancing– 6 feet apart–is still practiced. But a few hours after this article published, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people could go maskless and ignore physical distancing in almost all circumstances, even in large settings.
“Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the CDC said this afternoon.