By JULIE B. MAGLIO
On May 8, 2020 Hernando County Government announced the expiration of the local state of emergency designation for Hernando County. A Local State of Emergency is established by local governments in order to provide them with the flexibility and resources to act quickly for response and recovery efforts. The state of emergency`must be renewed every seven days through the Executive Policy Group and Board of County Commissioners.
Hernando County Government announced in a media release,
“At the May 7, 2020 joint special meeting of the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and Executive Policy Group, the BOCC voted to discontinue the Local State of Emergency (LSE) declaration for Hernando County. As of 11:59 p.m. on May 7, 2020, the LSE for Hernando County has expired. The Governor’s Executive Orders, including the Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step Plan for Florida’s Recovery, are still in effect for Hernando County and statewide.”
“The Office of Emergency Management in Hernando County will continue to monitor and provide updates as needed. Effective May 8, 2020, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will return to Level 3 - Monitoring status and will resume normal operating hours from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. Additionally, the EOC will close the COVID-19 Public Information Center phone line effective 5 p.m. on May 8, 2020. Citizens may still call Emergency Management at (352) 754-4083 for assistance.”
Vice Chairman John Allocco explained that it was a unanimous decision to let the state of emergency expire.
He provided the following remarks,
“Currently the entire state of Florida is in a “state of emergency” declaration therefore there is no need for our county to redundantly remain in an emergency condition of centralization of government power. Restoring local government to normal constitutional operating standards is the right thing to do to preserve our representative form of government and for future local state of emergency declarations to have meaning to the public we represent.”
“We have an outstanding Emergency Operations team that in conjunction with our administration, chairman, sheriff and EMS have performed well. They will continue to provide outstanding service to our community under normal government operational conditions.”
“The county in coordination with the department of health will continue to work with the state of Florida to address supply chain issues regarding PPE [Personal Protective Equipment].”
County Administrator Jeffrey Rogers, further explained,
“Hernando County BOCC did not have any restrictions beyond the restrictions that Governor has in place with the Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step Plan for Florida’s Recovery. The County will follow the plan from the Governor and will not enact any restrictions beyond what the state has in place. With us following the State plan, and our low percentage of positive tests, and the outstanding job the citizens are doing in social distancing and minimizing the rate of infection in our county, the local state of emergency is not needed at this time as the entire state is in a state of emergency. If a spike in the infection rate in our county happens, we will have the ability to re-establish the local state of Emergency.”
On Monday, May 4, 2020 some degree of normalcy returned to the county as phase I of the governor’s plan to reopen Florida began. Diners were allowed to dine in at restaurants at a 25% capacity level with outdoor seating allowed. Spas, salons, barber shops and bars remain closed. While hotels are in operation, vacation rentals are still not able to open for business.
Restaurants do have the option of expanding their outdoor seating. Rogers commented,
“The county has no restrictions for restaurants expanding outside seating. We encourage restaurants to establish this seating with the CDC and Health department guidelines. We are here to assist if needed. We have worked with Brooksville Main Street program to establish outside seating at the County Courthouse to assist local restaurants with expansion.”
He added that while most county offices have been serving the public remotely and online, some that have been closed to the public are making arrangements to re-open. County parks are now open and the libraries are open with 25% capacity. Today the Supervisor of Elections Office announced that the Forest Oaks Office will be reopening on Monday May 11.
Supervisor of Elections:
The Re-Open Florida Task Force Report which outlines the three phase approach to Florida's reopening can be found here:
Editor's Note: This article has been edited to include comments from Hernando County Administrator Jeffrey Rogers and additional linked resources.