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Letter from Delray Beach City Manager

Viruses Know No Borders

Post Date:03/21/2020 10:31 AM
The Governor’s decision to close the beaches and non essential businesses yesterday marked a new milestone in this national health crisis that we are all facing. While some non-essential city services will be suspended during this situation, rest assured that our brave police officers and fire-rescue personnel and many other City employees will be putting themselves in harms way every day to ensure that vital City services are uninterrupted and that our city remains safe. I remain grateful for their service and self sacrifice, particularly in this time of crisis.

 

Last week, the City of Delray Beach declared a local state of emergency, which is a technical term that fits within a larger emergency management system. Since this declaration, the City has responded with a number of closures including all bars, museums, Old School Square, recreation centers and the library. The City also banned any gatherings of 10 or more people on City property and cancelled all special events including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. These decisions were made exclusively with public safety in mind and with science on our side while understanding that many would be disappointed and negatively impacted. The City’s cancellation and closing decisions were made in consultation with regional and national emergency management experts that are specially trained for major emergencies. 

 

Most local governments in Palm Beach County manage disasters and coordinate their efforts through a County emergency management system, with the County coordinating with the State, and the State coordinating with the Federal government. Understanding this regional emergency management system leads to a better understanding of why only a few cities in Palm Beach County announced certain closings like beaches and restaurants while most, including Delray Beach, did not until yesterday. Viruses don’t recognize borders which is why the vast majority of cities in Palm Beach have been coordinating their decisions as a group, led by the Palm Beach County Emergency Management Division and the group has been relying on science and professionals who believe that major closings should be timed properly and coordinated regionally.

 

Those small handful of Palm Beach County cities not only decided to break from the agreed upon system in a substantial way but seemingly disregarded the impact that they might be having on their neighbors. When one City closes a beach without considering what impact they have on their neighbors, they may actually be helping to spread the virus by funneling their crowds to another beach and undermining the social distancing strategy. The City of Delray Beach followed the time tested system that saves lives and respected the concept that we are all in this together. 

 

The decision to close or not close the beach and restaurants when attempting to reduce viral spread is best made within the regional system as viruses know no borders. That’s why most cities in Palm Beach County relied on the County, State and Federal governments to coordinate a regional decision on the big issues related to how the virus spreads and to decide on what the best approach and timing is to slow its growth. We begin every morning being briefed by doctors and health and safety professionals and looking at real time data.

 

The City of Delray Beach and our County and State partners did not rely on cable news pundits and tv doctors in our approach to a major public health crisis. We did not rely on knee jerk reaction or sideline quarterbacks. We relied on guidance from the CDC, the State Health Department, and County Health experts and will continue to do so in the future.

 

This situation is very fluid and we will do our best to provide you with regular updates. We fully expect to see the number of cases in Palm Beach County jump substantially as well as all over the nation. Our firefighter paramedics will be facing their biggest challenge ever. We pray that our joint efforts will help flatten the curve and reduce the amount of illness and fatalities. We also will be focusing on the economic damage that this crisis has and will continue to cause. We will have a lot of work to do to pick up the pieces.

 

Having helped run a suburban city near Manhattan during the September 11th tragedy, I have seen with my own eyes both immense human misery and the beauty of love personified by neighbors helping their fellow neighbors hold it together in a world that was upended in a millisecond. I don’t know how long this new national crisis will last, nor do I know how bad it will be. The only thing that I know for certain is that we will get through it, we will be there for each other, and after the tears and the struggle, we will emerge stronger than ever. 

 

Stay safe. Stay tuned for more information. And always know that you can count on me, the Mayor and City Commission, and every last one of us at the City whose only mission in life is to serve others. 

 

Most sincerely,

 

George Gretsas
City Manager
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