Sumter County commissioners vote to extend emergency status due to COVID-19

Sumter County commissioners voted Tuesday night to extend the county’s state of emergency status due to the coronavirus for another seven days.

Meeting at Everglades Recreation Center, they tried to achieve social distancing with two commissioners at the meeting and two connecting by phone. About 20 people attended but were spaced widely apart in the large room.

While some county meetings have been canceled, the board of commissioners will continue to meet, but may transition to virtual meetings held remotely, said Chairman Steve Printz.

He said Gov. Ron DeSantis recently relaxed the rule that physical presence is required for a quorum.

“This is unprecedented to have the governor waive some of the public hearing requirements,” Printz said.

The state of emergency declaration, first enacted a week ago, allows the county to act quickly if needed. State law requires that the declaration cannot last more than a week without a vote to extend it.

Printz said everyone should practice social distancing to help impede the virus.

“We trying to be as diligent as we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “I do encourage all citizens to heed the governor’s recommendations and also the CDC.”

Linked to the meeting by phone, Commissioner Doug Gilpin agreed.

“We’re all in a tight fix,” he said. “We need to stick together and follow social distancing practices.”

County Administrator Bradley Arnold said many county meetings and activities have been canceled due to the virus. Among them is the annual Household Electronics Amnesty Day, planned for next month, when people can get rid of unwanted electronic items.

Arnold said the current conditions have caused uncertainty for local government and businesses, especially because there is no indication of an end date.

He said the county’s economic development staff remains at work and is assisting two businesses in getting bridge loans offered by the state.

Printz said the hard work of fire and emergency medical service workers, police officers and those stocking grocery stores should not be forgotten.

“I would encourage people, if you have an opportunity, to express your appreciation,” he said.

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