As the world races to get ahead of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, businesses are closing, events are rescheduling and people are practicing social distancing.
Much is still in the air regarding the effect of the COVID-19 coronavirus and how it will impact Plant City.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough. Some patients may also feel aches and pains and have nasal congestion or a sore throat. Not everyone who is infected develops symptoms, so it is crucial that you do your part in isolating and stay on top of your hygiene to prevent spreading the virus to others. Those who do develop symptoms usually see them appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.
Right now, Plant City appears to be following the guidance of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The goal of government right now is to speak with one voice and to deliver facts,” Mayor Rick Lott said. “In the county, the Emergency Policy Group that we call the EPG is made up of three mayors — Plant City, Temple Terrace and Tampa — the Sheriff, the Chairman of the School Board, the County Administrator and three county commissioners, including the chairman of the county commission. We have daily phone calls. We are working on this daily as a group so we have all branches of government in Hillsborough County working together toward a solution. We work with the state and federal authorities to make sure we are delivering a solution that has support locally, from the state and from the government.”
It’s a time of uncertainty, but one thing has remained abundantly clear: it is crucial we flatten the curve. Essentially the concept is that infections will happen, but as long as we can prevent them from all happening at the same time we will be able to stay ahead of it. In less than one month, the global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has doubled from approximately 75,000 toward the end of February to more than 153,000 in the middle of March.
With the growing rate of cases, hospitals are beginning to fill to capacity. On top of that, there is a lack of necessary medical resources, which means some people may not be able to get tested even if they want to be.
Isolation is the key to making that happen, so everyone from President Donald Trump to our local elected officials are asking people to remain at home.
Many local businesses have already closed their doors and some have taken precautionary measures and have asked employees to begin working from home.
The virus is spread from person to person “through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales,” according to the World Health Organization.
The best thing you can do is wash your hands and keep your distance from others. It is being recommended that people remain six feet apart whenever possible.
Any restaurant in Hillsborough County must close by 10 p.m. Restaurants can continue to offer food and non-alcoholic beverages for takeout and delivery from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Restaurants are also required to limit their occupancy by 50 percent for on-premise consumption during all hours of operations. DeSantis has mandated that all bars and nightclubs be closed for 30 days.
Any public gathering — whether that’s faith-based events, sports, civic or community events, concerts, etc. — that has more than 50 people gathered in a single space is prohibited. The only exceptions to that rule are venues that provide essential goods or services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, hospitals, banks or credit unions and shelters. Trump has recommended any gathering with more than 10 people also be prohibited, but it is not yet required.
When it comes to Plant City parks, as of press time they are still technically open but the recreation centers themselves are closed and all games have been canceled.
Businesses and organizations throughout the city are taking a heavy hit due to the virus. The United Food Bank of Plant City is in desperate need of help as it seeks to handle the increased demand in the community.
“We are pretty desperate here,” Mary Heysek, director of UFB, said. “This is much different than when we were out for the hurricane. We were asked to expand our kids program as long as the kids are out of school. We have had double the amount of people in this week already. The contents in our kids’ bags have had to be cut in half. The problem is we are receiving 70 percent less food than we usually do.”
The UFB is also operating under increased sanitary requirements and only allows five people in the front office at a time in an effort to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. They also require people to be one meter apart in the line outside. UFB is seeking donations and is located at 702 E. Alsobrook St. #H, and you can contact them by calling 813-764-0625 for further information.
It’s a situation that is evolving every day.
“City government continues to monitor and take action in accordance with county, state and federal public health recommendations and mandates,” City Manager Bill McDaniel said. “City staff are focused on ensuring we meet the public safety needs of our community, to include police, fire and water/sewer/solid waste services. Additionally, we have ramped up our internal and external communications to share information as timely as possible. We will continue this posture and these efforts for the duration of this fluid and rapidly evolving incident.”
Lott said at the local level, McDaniel is meeting with leaders of staff every morning to make sure they’re up to date on what needs to be done. Just like when another emergency comes to town, like a hurricane or severe flooding, there are routines in place to make sure the city operates at its highest standard to tackle the changes.
“We have all hands on deck, this is what we are focused on,” Lott said. “From the standpoint of our community, yes, this is a new threat to our community. But we have had other threats and emergencies before like hurricanes and storms, and we as a city are financially strong, our reserves are strong and we have systems in place and backup plans that ensure we are able to provide the services to our city that we need in these times.”
The City of Plant City is also updating its website daily with information from the community. You can find those updates at bit.ly/2w4Y972. Lott also encouraged all local residents to routinely check in on the state and federal websites as well for up-to-date information and to learn about the support available.
Closures and City Updates
All formal city-sponsored Parks and Recreation programming has been cancelled through May 10
All independent events utilizing City-owned facilities are cancelled through May 10
The Bruton Memorial Library will be closed until April 13
No utility service will be disconnected for non-payment through April 16
Employees at service windows will limit contact with customers through the use of gloves and glass barriers, where available. Customers who wish to make payments are strongly encouraged to use remote payment options, which are available here.
CareerSource Tampa Bay has closed its Plant City office, 307 N. Michigan Ave.
Hillsborough County Tax Collector closed its Plant City office at 1834 James Redman Parkway
Hillsborough County has officially canceled all government events and meetings until April 13, including all library events, county parks and recreation facilities, and it has also closed its senior centers.
Restaurants doing curbside/takeout
Thanks to the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce’s reporting, the following restaurants have officially said they are offering to-go food options as of 3:45 p.m. March 17. Follow the Chamber’s Facebook page at @PlantCityChamber for more up-to-date information.
Maryland Fried Chicken
Charley’s Philly Steaks
O’Brien’s Irish Pub
Dairy Queen (Treat)
Jersey Mike’s Subs
1916 Irish Pub
Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Chili’s Grill & Bar
Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant
Norma’s Plant City Cuban Sandwich Shop
Brick House Cafe
Olde Town Pizzeria
Firehouse Subs Plant City
Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
The Corner Store