MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County commissioners announced that the county boat ramps will close on Thursday, March 26 at an emergency meeting today.
Several other coronavirus (COVID-19) related measures were also taken and discussed during Tuesday’s meeting.
Commission Chair Betsy Benac was the only commissioner to attend the meeting in person. The other commissioners participated remotely.
The county issued a press release soon after the virtual commission meeting concluded.
“In an effort to further curb public gatherings on popular beaches and to protect citizens during the COVID-19 public health crisis, Manatee County officials today announced that beach access will be restricted at Beer Can (Greer) Island beginning Thursday, March 26 at 6 a.m. Additionally, county and city-owned boat ramps will close temporarily beginning Thursday, March 26 at 6 a.m. All Manatee County beaches remain closed. Only commercial fishing operations — those with a U.S. Coast Guard Six-Pack Captain’s License and a commercial fishing license — may use Coquina South boat ramp,” the county press release said.
During the emergency meeting, Director of Public Safety Jacob Saur said local first responders and healthcare workers are in short supply of personal protection equipment (PPE) and asked community businesses to help by donating unused N-95 masks, surgical masks and gloves. Businesses interested in donating these items are asked to call 941- 744-3939.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Benac said, “It’s wonderful to get outside but you need to not congregate. Now is not the time to do it. We have to try, even in the short term. The only way we can slow this virus down is by not passing it along to one another.”
According to the press release, County Administrator Cheri Coryea said county officials remain hopeful that public buildings, facilities and beaches will open sooner rather than later, but decisions on whether to prolong the closures will be made leading up to April 2, when the President’s initial 15 Days to Slow the Spread campaign expires.
According to the press release, the boat ramp closure applies to the county-owned boat ramps, along with the Holmes Beach boat ramp at Memorial Park and Palmetto’s Riverside Park boat ramp. Emerson Point Preserve will remain open but no vehicles or water vessels will be able to reach the sandy beach launch at the western end of the park.
County leaders stated that social distancing must be observed across the community.
MCAT’s Beach Express and Beach Connection service has been discontinued but the Anna Maria Island Trolley is still operating.
County commissioners extended a local state of emergency by seven days today at 9 a.m. The emergency declaration was one of two items on today’s agenda. The other was a resolution declaring a temporary burn ban due to “hot, dry, parched, drought and windy conditions,” according to the press release.
Under the seven-day temporary burn ban, Manatee County residents may continue to use outdoor cookers or grills as long as they are attended by a responsible adult at all times the unit is burning, cooking or otherwise in use. Fireworks, sparklers, flares, campfires and open burning would all be temporarily prohibited under the burn ban. Residents can expect the burn ban to be renewed weekly until the area receives enough rainfall to decrease the threat of brush fires, according to the press release.
Tuesday’s archived meeting can be viewed online and locally on Spectrum channel 644, Verizon channel 30 and Comcast channel 20.