We applaud District Manager Richard Baier, his staff members, local government officials, the powers-that-be at The Villages, highly responsible local businesspeople and a host of others who have done the right thing by canceling public events and gatherings and taking safety precautions as our country collectively tries to battle the Coronavirus.
Early on, the District jumped on COVID-19 – more than 145,600 people worldwide and 50 in Florida have been stricken by the pandemic disease that currently has no cure – and formed an internal team focused on all facets of the disease. Under Baier’s strong leadership – he has a history of tackling projects and issues head-on – they adopted a proactive strategy, from dispensing extra cleaning solution to employees to getting timely information to residents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Sumter County Health Department and the state.
Baier and company also took the lead in shutting down a host of District government meetings through next Friday, the Spring Craft Show at Lake Miona, SeaBreeze and Eisenhower Regional Recreation Centers, and a Community Development District orientation session. Those decisions weren’t made lightly, they didn’t happen overnight, and they took a great deal of behind-the-scenes conversations to determine the right thing to do, largely because we don’t know a great deal about COVID-19 with the exception that those in poor health and senior citizens – about 135,000 folks here meet that criteria – are among the most at risk of suffering serious illness or death from the disease.
Luckily for Villagers, Gov. Ron DeSantis – he declared a public health emergency after two people tested “presumptively positive” for the disease and predicted others would come down with it – his staff, the Florida Department of Health and our three local health departments have been extremely proactive in dealing with the Coronavirus. Area residents are receiving a barrage of information about the disease, including daily updates on the number of cases in Florida and ways to protect themselves against becoming infected.
The Sumter County Health Department quickly advised Villagers and other seniors to practice “social distancing.” That’s because COVID-19 can spread between people who are in close contact through respiratory droplets – liquid released when someone sneezes, coughs or talks – that infect people via the eyes, nose or mouth. They can land directly on someone or be transferred onto their body by people touching their face with contaminated hands.
Fortunately, many others in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown also have taken proactive approaches to COVID-19. They include:
- The Villages brass, who pulled the plug on Friday night’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Lake Sumter Landing, shut down the town squares indefinitely, closed the Developer-owned theaters and played a role in canceling country music star Trisha Yearwood’s show at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.
- Villages Honor Flight canceled its two spring missions to Washington, D.C., thereby avoiding the possibility of more than 100 aging veterans and a host of others being unexpectedly exposed to the disease in airports, buses or at the war memorials in our nation’s capital.
- Care facilities in and around the community are following DeSantis’ lead and limiting visitors while encouraging Skype and video-chatting as viable options to stay in touch with loved ones.
- Local restaurant owners like Gina and Mike Buell (City Fire), Fred Karimipour of FMK Restaurant Group (Chop House at Lake Sumter, Evans Prairie Country Club, Belle Glade Country Club, Bonifay Country Club, Orange Blossom Hills Country Club and Scooples Ice Cream Parlor) and Allen Musikantow (Cody’s Original Roadhouse) are going above and beyond to make sure their customers and staff are safe at their eateries.
- Fruitland Park commissioners postponed their annual Fruitland Park Day festival that would have drawn thousands into the city and announced plans to also cancel indoor events involving the public.
- Villages softball players decided to forego the customary handshakes and high-fives with their opponents after games, encouraging smiles and waves instead.
- American Legion Post 347 in Lady Lake – the largest such post in the world – has shut its doors through at least April 1.
- Villages golf courses have relaxed their policies against lone riders in golf carts and restrictions requiring golf cart traffic to stay on paths or the rough.
Not surprisingly, Villagers and area residents are constantly seeking information about how to avoid contracting the Coronavirus. Health officials say the best practice is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – frequently. They also recommend using sanitizer products containing a minimum of 60 percent alcohol on your hands and surfaces that may have been exposed to respiratory droplets from infected people.
- Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Sick people should stay at home (e.g., from work or school).
- Coughs and sneezes should be covered with a tissue, followed by disposal of the tissue.
Frequently touched objects and surfaces should be cleaned regularly with an alcohol-based disinfectant.
There’s no question that we’re living in a scary time. People are frightened of the unknown, lives are being disrupted and major sporting events and other gatherings are being canceled at an alarming rate. But all of those steps clearly are necessary if our country hopes to get COVID-19 under control before it wreaks complete havoc and claims thousands of American lives.
Currently, there are no known cases of COVID-19 in The Villages. We fully believe that’s because Baier, government leaders, staff members, local businesspeople and a bunch of concerned residents have done the right thing and taken this disease seriously.
That said, please take every precaution possible and take care of each other. It’s only a matter of time before a vaccine and cure is found for COVID-19. But until that day arrives, we all have a responsibility to take this disease very seriously and do whatever it takes to protect ourselves and our loved ones from it.