Amid concern that the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease will spread in coming weeks, city commissioners this afternoon voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency in Lakeland, giving City Manager Tony Delgado extraordinary authority to respond as events unfold.

The vote was 6-0 with Mayor Bill Mutz absent. The vote came after three local public health experts briefed commissioners on local preparations. So far, 161 cases have been confirmed in Florida, but Polk Health Department Director Dr. Joy Jackson told commissioners there have been no confirmed cases in Polk County.

The resolution, added to the commissioners’ agenda shortly before the meeting started, allows the city to activate its emergency management plan and gives Delgado the power, if needed, to:

  • Order evacuations
  • Declare curfews
  • Declare certain areas of the city subject to quarantine or accessible only under specified conditions
  • Prohibit price gouging
  • Implement emergency procurement procedures

Those powers are spelled out in Chapter 26 of Lakeland’s City Code and have been granted previously during emergencies such as Hurricane Irma in 2017. In that case, a curfew was instituted on two nights amid fears that businesses could be harmed during widespread power outages, Delgado said.

The emergency declaration also positions the city to be reimbursed for coronavirus-related expenses from state and federal sources, Delgado said.

Before the vote, Commissioner Stephanie Madden expressed concern that granting the authority to the city manager would encroach on the commissioners’ role as policy makers.

Delgado responded that he would consult with commissioners individually or at a called special meeting before taking any extreme action.

Polk County Manager Bill Beasley signed an emergency declaration today, and it’s expected to be approved by the Polk County Commission when it meets Tuesday.

The City Commission meeting began with a presentation about local response to the coronavirus from three public health experts:

Madden tried to pin Jackson down on a number of Polk residents who have been tested for coronavirus, but Jackson said she didn’t have a number.

Achinger said Watson Clinic received 26 test kits as of last Friday and tested nine patients over the weekend out of about 400 who reported respiratory symptoms. Doctors are guided in testing by standards set by the Centers for Disease Control, which change daily, he said.

Here is the resolution, followed by Dr. Haight’s slide presentation on coronavirus and video of the meeting:

City Commission Meeting 2020.03.16 from City of Lakeland on Vimeo.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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  1. If you declare a state of emergency in Lakeland, what will happen to Pain Management? I have to go every month for my pain medications. The pain management doctor is required by law, since my primary care doctor can’t write pain prescriptions. I am disabled and need my pain meds.

  2. The reality of everything is that there’s not enough tests. That when people go for a test they reject them. My daughter, a veteran and active member of this community, is sick. She went for a test and because she didn’t have no known contact with somebody that have been infected with covid-19 or travel out of country recently, she was denied a test and send back to work. Only God knows how many people are in Polk County already carrying the virus.

  3. If a some point we run out of space for hospital patients, consider the mall. It has multiple entrances and thousands of square feet. Areas could be sectioned off and purposed according to need. FEMA and National guard could setup temp medical areas. The parking lot being so large could be utilized for drive through testing like NY. This saves time in that you would not have to construct facilities from scratch. This concept could used around the country also.

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