As of Sunday, March 29, there have been three deaths related to Coronavirus in Sarasota-Manatee County. With the number of those infected reaching 4,038 by the evening of March 28, Sarasota has issued temporary shutdowns and extensions of deadlines that would be affected by Coronavirus.
Following orders sent down by Governor Ron Desantis, Sarasota County School District moved to online classes and closed daycares. The Sarasota County School District issued a response about how the school district is addressing grievances about the Coronavirus,
“We take direction from the Center for Disease Control, the Department of Health, and the State Department of Education,” Sarasota County School District said in a statement on Monday. “We’ll be updating our entire school community as important information is shared with us by these entities.”
Following suit with Hillsborough and Pinellas County, Sarasota has shut down all programming, reservations, events, leagues, tournaments, drop-ins and use of indoor fitness centers and amenities, regardless of size through Sunday April 12. Sarasota County Government has also waived water service shut-offs through April 13 for non-payment of utilities bills, this will help those that have been part of the mass lay-offs that have come with the state shutdown.
In addition, the Sarasota Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller is urging the community to continue practicing social distancing by utilizing online services, pay-by-phone, or mail service.
The Sarasota County Tax Collector has also extended deadlines for tax transactions. While many of these forms are being moved online, there have been reported issues with online sites crashing. In turn, deadlines have been extended to renew driver’s license, commercial driver’s license and identification cards that expire between March 16 and April 15.
All Sarasota County libraries have closed and will remain closed through April 12. Public library staff have established a curbside pick-up option for items placed on hold through their online catalogue. The digital library has been made fully available for library cardholders to access books, magazines, movies, music and television programs.
On Monday, March 16, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis directed the Department of Revenue to provide flexibility on tax due dates to assist those affected by COVID-19. Property tax is normally due March 31, but the Department of Revenue waived the previous due date so that payments can be made by April 15, for the 2019 tax year.
The citizens of Sarasota have stepped up to aid those affected by the public shutdowns. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation have created an initiative to target hunger relief, homelessness support and mental health care.
The Manatee Community Foundation has established the Manatee County COVID-19 Community Response Fund to support the evolving needs of health and human service organizations. This response fund was created through $500,000 via an anonymous donor.
The New Hope Food Pantry extended the hours for its distribution. To keep in line with coronavirus guidelines the New Hope Food Pantry also switched to a drive-through model. The extension in hours was a response to the increase in need from the public. Larry Grant, the volunteer spokesman for the pantry expressed that the two greatest needs are healthy volunteers and money.
“We’ve already had at least a 50 percent increase in the amount of people coming, from 800 to 1,400 coming, each Monday and Friday,” Grant said in an interview with the Herald Tribune. “Typically, the pantry would serve 7,500 household members a month”.
The Catalyst will continue to give updates on the Coronavirus and any actions taken by Sarasota County to combat the spread of the virus.