Islamorada officials are urging the wearing of masks inside village facilities after several staff members were confirmed with COVID-19 following a July council meeting inside Founders Park Community Center.
As for an upcoming Aug. 19 meeting of council, officials are recommending the public participate virtually. Residents wishing to attend in person can still do so, but they’re encouraged to wear a mask.
A recent Florida Health Department report indicated 388 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Monroe County from July 30 to Aug. 5.
Recent budget workshops saw one to two members of the public and about 10 department heads attending in person. Other village staff members attended via Zoom.
Councilman Henry Rosenthal also virtually participated in workshops after he was told to stay home for 10 days. Rosenthal, who received his vaccines earlier in the year, said two tests performed on him came back negative.
“I’ve been behaving myself,” he said. “I should be good to go after (Aug. 6).”
Islamorada Manager Greg Oravec said the village gave employees who want the vaccine up to 12 hours administrative leave. The village also placed emphasis on policies for those who were exposed or contracted COVID-19 and relayed that those not vaccinated should wear a mask, in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Councilman David Webb said there are strong feelings when it comes to individual choice. With regard to the virus, he said a person’s choice can affect dozens of other people.
“They’re not only responsible for themselves, but they’re responsible for other people as well,” Webb said regarding masks inside village facilities.
Vice Mayor Pete Bacheler said firefighters and law enforcement officers are also among those coming down with COVID-19. He said masks should be “highly suggested” inside village buildings like the administrative building, Founders Park Community Center and pool administrative building.
“I think we need to be on the attack for this COVID variant because I don’t like it,” he said. “At my age, I really don’t like it and I don’t like people getting sick near me. I don’t like people getting sick, period.”
Mayor Buddy Pinder said he’s keeping his meetings with village staff members outside. He, too, believes people should be asked to wear masks inside facilities including Founders Park Community Center.
“Especially in close quarters … we should respect each other and wear masks,” he said.
With glass dividers installed and masks donned, Islamorada council welcomed the public back to meetings at the community center at Founders Park in May. Before that, public viewers could only watch via Zoom, on television or online.
A large plexiglass screen was placed between the dais and the public for a few meetings before it was ultimately taken down. Plexiglass dividers remain on the dais between seats. All members of the dais are wearing masks, as well as village staff at the table.
Council members will hear from Bob Eadie, Monroe County’s top health officer, at the meeting on Thursday, Aug. 19 at 5:30 p.m.