The total number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus grew to 163 in St. Johns County as of Thursday evening.
Of that group, 158 are residents and five are visitors, according to the Florida Department of Health.
As of Thursday evening, Florida had 16,826 cases of COVID-19 with 371 deaths, and increase of 1,128 cases and 48 deaths since Thursday morning.
In order to protect public health, safety, and welfare and maximize compliance with an executive order issued by the state, all public beaches in St. Johns County were forced to close public access under the local state of emergency, effective Sunday and will remain closed until further notice.
"We have taken as many measures as possible up to this point to preserve our residents' ability to access their beach. Unfortunately, those visiting the beach continue to ignore CDC guidelines regarding crowd size and personal distancing. In order to maintain public safety and respect the State of Florida's Executive Order, we had no choice but to close the coastline to public access today," said Hunter S. Conrad, St. Johns County Administrator. "We will continue to be methodical in our approach to closings related to COVID-19, and like every decision we have made to this point, we will open the beaches at the appropriate time when it is safe to do so."
Flagler Health+, St. Johns County Department of Health, The Avecina Medical-Julington Creek and TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville are among the sites providing COVID-19 testing available to St. Johns County residents. Each location may have different requirements or regulations for testing.
The St. Johns County Utility Department is suspending late fees on utility bills, effective immediately, in an attempt to ease financial strain on families and businesses impacted by COVID-19. In addition, the Utility Department will not disconnect services on accounts with an outstanding balance. These measures are in effect until further notice. Customers with past-due balances that predate the current health emergency are still expected to pay for their services. For more information, call (904) 209-2700 or visit www.sjcfl.us/utilities.
In order to maximize compliance with State of Florida Executive Order 20-68, all public beach parking lots in St Johns County are closed under the local state of emergency, effective 6 a.m. on Monday, March 23 and will remain closed until further notice.
The determination to close all public beach parking lots is based upon a recommendation to reduce health risks associated with COVID-19 and beach overcrowding by the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office, the St Augustine Beach Police Department, St Johns County Emergency Management, and local health officials.
While pedestrian access to St Johns County beaches remains accessible, gatherings should be limited to no more than 10 persons and maintain a minimum distance of six 6 between other parties in compliance with CDC guidelines.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced as of 5 p.m. Friday, March 20, all Duval County beaches will close. Police and lifeguards will patrol beaches for enforcement and violators face trespassing violations.
Gov. Ron DeSantis halts on-premise food and alcohol sales in Florida and closes gyms and fitness centers.
DeSantis issued an executive order (20-71) prohibiting the sale of alcohol for consumption on premises by licensed vendors, banning restaurants and bars from serving food on the premises and closing gyms and fitness centers across the state.
Executive Order 20-71 is as follows:
Section 1. Alcohol Sales
All vendors licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises must suspend the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink or in sealed containers for consumption on the premises. Such vendors may continue to sell alcoholic beverages in sealed containers for consumption off premises.
The restriction in section 561.20(2)(a)4., Florida Statutes, prohibiting a specially licensed food service establishment from selling package sales of alcohol for delivery, take-out or consumption off-premises is suspended for restaurants complying with Executive Order 20-68, through the expiration of the state of emergency declared in Executive Order 20-52, including any extensions, so long as the following conditions are met:
Any sale of an alcoholic beverage in a sealed container for consumption off-premises is accompanied by the sale of food within the same order; and
Any delivery of an alcoholic beverage complies with section 561.57, Florida Statutes.
This Section does not prohibit retail stores and vendors that currently sell sealed containers of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption from continuing such sales for off premises consumption.
Section 2. Restaurants and Bars
I hereby order all restaurants and food establishments licensed under Chapters 500 and 509, Florida Statues, within the State of Florida to suspend on-premises food consumption for customers. Notwithstanding the foregoing, such establishments may operate their kitchens for the purpose of providing delivery or take-out services. Employees, janitorial personnel, contractors and delivery personnel shall be allowed access to such establishments for the purposes of delivery or take-out services. This Section amends and supersedes Executive Order 20-68, Sections 3(A)-(B).
Section 3. Gyms and Fitness Centers
I hereby order the closure of gymnasiums and fitness centers within the State of Florida. This order shall not apply to gymnasiums and fitness centers which are: (i) amenities of hotels which have a capacity of 10 persons or less, (ii) are an amenity of a residential building, (iii) are interior to any fire or police stations or (iv) are located inside any single-occupant office building.
In an effort to maximize observance of the State of Florida’s executive order regarding gatherings on beaches, vehicular access to all St. Johns County beaches will be prohibited beginning Saturday, March 21.
“We are taking a methodical and deliberate approach to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our residents while also working to respect their personal rights in this environment of rapidly changing information,” said Hunter Conrad, St. Johns County Administration. “The measures we’ve taken today may not be what’s best for tomorrow and we remain flexible in our strategy without a current one size fits all approach.”
The vehicular access restriction, a recommendation of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Augustine Beach Police Department, St. Johns County Emergency Management and St. Johns County Administration, will be reevaluated throughout the weekend and adjusted as necessary based on available information, beach capacity, crowd size and voluntary compliance.
Executive Order 20-68 states that individuals accessing public beaches are to follow CDC guidance by limiting gatherings to no more than 10 persons and distance themselves from other parties by 6 feet.
St. Johns County launched a new emergency notification system to provide residents with critical information during emergency situations. The Alert St. Johns system replaces the Code Red notification system, so it is imperative that residents sign up for these critical notifications. Sign up at Alert St. Johns. Learn more @ SJC Emergency Management
In response to growing concerns over the spread of COVID-10, the City of St. Augustine has issued Administrative Order 2020-04, which calls for the suspension of parking fees and closure of the Visitor Information Center.
The VIC, located at 10 San Marco Avenue, is temporarily closed, until Friday, April 3. However, the public bathrooms will remain open and their cleaning schedule will be enhanced. In the interim, VIC staff have been reassigned to cleaning duties of City facilities.
As previously announced, and included in this administrative order, water service termination for non-payment will be suspended until Friday, April 3.
While festivals and public meetings have been temporarily put on hold, the City of St. Augustine Solid Waste collections will continue normal operations. Pickup of residential and commercial trash, recycling and yard debris remains on schedule.
Along with the theme of cleanliness, the city would like to remind potentially toilet paper-strapped residents that their toilets are not trash cans. Flushing items other than toilet paper and human waste can cause clogs and back-ups, potentially increasing the spread of germs and the malfunction of the city’s wastewater treatment operations. Many products are considered "flushable" or may seem harmless to flush, like paper towels, but these items do not break up like toilet paper and should not be allowed down any toilet or drain.