One of the primary roles of government is to protect the safety and well-being of its citizens. 2020 has presented us with many challenges that have brought this responsibility into the spotlight.
We have had the opportunity and to not only focus on traditional health and safety needs such as the expansion of police and fire services, water quality with a focus on bringing online the new reverse osmosis water plant, sanitation and the planning for additional capacity to serve residents needs into the future, crosswalks and accessibility to allow safe pedestrian travel in our streets, and investments in parks and recreation areas that benefit the overall health of our residents, but we also have a responsibility to do our part to stem a global pandemic and help to not overwhelm our healthcare system.
While we had always considered the Florida Department of Health Charlotte County (FDOHCC) a partner, never before did we rely on the department and advice of Administrator Dr. Pepe on such a regular basis. From giving us the tools to monitor the health of our residents through dashboards, to delivering the messages surrounding the COVID-19 risks when presenting at our Council meetings, the City of Punta Gorda has been given critical information to make decisions regarding keeping our community safe. As most are aware, one of the decisions made in the City of Punta Gorda is to require facial coverings in indoor places that do not allow for social or physical distancing.
Positive tests in Charlotte County are being reported over the past week with ranges of 36 to 56 cases per day. This makes the virus still a very real threat to the residents of Punta Gorda. Please do your part in protecting your health and the health of others including washing your hands frequently, practicing physical and social distancing, avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth, cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces and wearing a face covering in public places. Remember, everyone catches it from someone. Help us protect others we may encounter.
In addition to advisories about COVID-19 the FDOHCC has also asked the city to remind residents about prevention of influenza. Fortunately, many of the same practices that help to stop the spread of COVID-19 also work for the flu. Dr. Pepe provides the following advice “Frequently washing your hands, staying home while sick, and receiving a flu shot are the best ways to protect against and prevent the spread of the influenza virus.” Fortunately healthcare providers and pharmacies in Punta Gorda have supplies of the flu vaccine available and remind residents that once vaccinated it takes about two weeks to offer protection.
A final health advisory reminder from the FDOHCC is that there have been cases of mosquito borne illness in our county. Standing water is one of the biggest factors in mosquitos multiplying. Drain accumulated water from items that are stored outside and empty and clean birdbaths and outside pet bowls at least once or twice a week. Also, cover skin with clothing or repellent to prevent bites.
While the challenges ahead of us are many, the City of Punta Gorda works hard to protect the health and safety of our residents every day. We are fortunate to have a citizenry that is connected, involved, and concerned for their city and each other. It’s more than a city, it is a true community. This community will face these and any other challenges by working together and standing strong.
Greg Murray is the city manager of Punta Gorda.