Manatee County public safety, health officials: local residents 'must be proactive, not reactive'

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Manatee County public safety, health officials: local residents 'must be proactive, not reactive'
Posted on 03/16/2020

County Commissioners declare local state of emergency

MANATEE COUNTY, FL (March 16, 2020) – Manatee County Commissioners declared a local state of emergency shortly after Public Safety and Health Department leaders urged Manatee County residents not to panic but to take the coronavirus seriously and to practice good hand washing and social distancing.

The local declaration gives government officials the ability to respond more quickly and efficiently to meet needs related to the coronavirus, and it will enable the County to be reimbursed by state and federal officials for expenses related to the virus. Manatee County is now at a Level 2 activation of its Emergency Operations Center where public health and safety officials will meet regularly.

"We must be proactive rather than reactive," Public Safety Director Jacob Saur told Commissioners today. "Inevitably we will see an increase in cases but now is not a time to panic, it’s a time to plan and prepare."

Saur also urged the public not to hoard supplies such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies. There are no plans to close public beaches at this time, he said.

Dr. Jennifer Bencie, County Health Officer for the Department of Health in Manatee County, stressed the importance of washing hands with soap and water, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, coughing or sneezing into the elbow or tissue, practicing social distancing, wiping down surfaces routinely and staying home if you're ill.

"Our goal is to work with the healthcare system to try and keep the spike down to try and control it," Bencie said. "(The coronavirus) is different than anything in our lifetimes because of the widespread nature of it. It will continue to spread if we don’t take appropriate precautions, whether they be limiting international travel or the basics of social distancing."

Bencie recommended avoiding group activities and said masks aren't needed for healthy individuals.

"We want to save the other masks for healthcare providers so they don’t get sick," she said. "If you’re well you don’t need a mask. If you’re sick, stay home."

Watch today's full coronavirus briefing online.

"It's important for the public to understand that even if you’re not feeling sick or if you don't have signs of the flu, you should go about your business as if you have it so you're more conscious of what you do," Saur said. "Practice social distancing."

County Administrator Cheri Coryea asked those who are planning business at public buildings but who are sick to use the County's new 3-1-1 call center instead of leaving home. The new 3-1-1 features one-call resolution to help address citizen questions and requests for help.

Extra cleaning precautions are being taken on MCAT buses, at public buildings and door handles in County facilities. All of Manatee Library locations have normal operating hours but all programs, events and meeting room use are cancelled through March 30. Library materials that are checked out now will be automatically renewed and due dates will be extended until April 1. All fines that accrue from now until April 15 will be waived.

For local updates on the coronavirus, visit or

For more information on Manatee County Government, visit or call (941) 748-4501. You can also follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter, @ManateeGov.