BY THE DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
As officials continue to see hopeful signs in the coronavirus curve, Volusia County has begun preliminary plans for a phased-in resumption of county services.
According to Florida Department of Health statistics, more then 27,000 Florida residents have tested positive for coronavirus, resulting in more than 4200 hospitalizations and 893 deaths as of the Daytona Times’ press time late Wednesday night.
In Volusia County, 366 residents have tested positive, resulting in 60 hospitalizations and 13 deaths.
In Daytona Beach’s predominantly Black 32114 ZIP Code, 31 residents have tested positive for coronavirus.
While no definite timetable has been established yet, county staff said Tuesday during their weekly COVID-19 briefing with the Volusia County Council that they want to be ready to reopen when the time is right. While critical public safety responses have continued uninterrupted, the pandemic has resulted in government buildings closing to the public, with many employees working from home.
Services like libraries have transitioned to online and curbside and the beaches have been closed to vehicles to prevent crowding.
On Tuesday, County Manager George Recktenwald told the council that the staff is actively working on plans to resume some traditional operations. But he said it will be a phased in approach and based on the best available data as well as guidance from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“We do have a team in place, and we’re actively going over each of these areas of the government on what we can open up,” Recktenwald said.
Beach is a focus
Reopening the beach seemed to be uppermost in many people’s minds. Deputy County Manager Suzanne Konchan said the first phase will likely be providing better access for the disabled, re-opening some parking on the ramps and then deciding how best to reintroduce vehicle traffic on the beaches without creating overcrowded conditions.
“The departments have already begun meeting collaboratively on how best to relaunch
our county services across our departments and divisions,” Konchan said. “It’s a broad discussion.”
The goal, she said, with coastal access is to reopen it “in a logical way that follows the advice from our health professionals in a safe way to get people out enjoying the fresh air and the beaches.”
Opening the beach
To council members, it can’t happen soon enough. They want to make sure the county is ready to resume beach access when the governor gives the green light to reopen the state.
“My hope is we open it (the beaches) sooner than later,” said county chair Ed Kelley.
“Let’s get that beach open so people can go down there and enjoy it,” said Councilwoman Billie Wheeler.
Libraries and summer camps Other strategies the county is examining includes a phased reopening of library services, starting with public computer areas first and the possible installation of plexiglass shields in county work areas that have direct customer contact.
The county also is making preparations for the opening of its summer camps if medical experts say it’s safe.
Recktenwald stressed that whatever the county does, it will need to ensure the safety of its employees, coordinate with local cities and enlist the continued support and cooperation of the public.
“My recommendation is a phased approach,’” said Recktenwald. “We don’t want to jump out ahead and then have a relapse. So it is going to require the citizens to continue to work with us.”