Publix Super Markets is adding plexiglass barriers at checkout counters, customers and pharmacies in an effort to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Installation starts this weekend and should be completed at all stores in two weeks, spokeswoman Maria Brous wrote in an email.

Kroger Co., which competes with Publix in Atlanta and the Carolinas, had earlier announced it would place protection at cash registers.

Drive Promotes Gift Cards for Local Businesses

Two local organizations are organizing a drive to help Lakeland businesses by getting customers to buy gift cards to “buy now, spend later.”

“We hope this initiative will provide companies with much-needed revenue during this uncertain time,” reads a Facebook post from the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce and the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority. “The Gift Card Incentive Program is open to all Lakeland businesses.”

Interested businesses can register online

Nineteen61 Adds Comfort Food, More

At Nineteen61 in downtown Lakeland, efforts to stay afloat in uncertain times for the restaurant industry include adding family-style comfort dishes to the menu, starting its own delivery service and selling toilet paper, WUSF News reports.

The menu now includes  pasta dishes, mac and cheese, and other affordable family fare., and owner Marcos Fernandez is promoting regularly on social media.

Fernandez is worried about the future for restaurants, noting that some downtown spots have already closed. “As the days progress, if we can’t get some type of bailout,” he said, “it’s going to get chaotic.”

Veterinarians Switch to Curbside Pickup

Veterinarians and their staff should retrieve and return pets to their owners at their cars as part of the effort to avoid spread of the coronavirus, national vet organizations recommend.

One of the local veterinary offices doing so is My Pets Animal Hospital on Drane Field Road, Fox 13 News reports.

Staffers update owners via phone and payments are handled online.

“I think initially there was some concern  that maybe we were being over the top but as things have progressed on a day to day basis, we felt like being at the forefront, taking these precautions will allow us to help as many pets as possible, as long as possible, while keeping our staff and clients safe,” said Dr. Donna McWilliams, the owner.

Checking Out Recreation Options

Ledger reporters looked into how coronavirus-related closures are affecting people seeking recreation. Here’s what they found:

  • Hiking/outdoors: Some nature lovers are frustrated that most local trails and nature reserves are closed. Others recognize that social distancing is hard at popular spots like Alligator Alley at Circle B Bar Reserve. And a few experienced hands are finding some environmental lands that are still open and offer solitude.
  • Golf: While the city of Lakeland’s Cleveland Heights Golf Course is temporarily closed, many Polk County courses remain open under guidelines for social distancing, less handling of equipment and take-out-only dining.
  • Tennis: Most public tennis courts in Polk County are closed for the time being.
  • Boating/fishing: Some of Polk County’s public boat ramps remain open, including the one at Loyce Harpe Park in Lakeland. All city of Lakeland boat ramps are closed, as is the county’s Saddle Creek Park.

Coordinating Calls for Protective Equipment

Health care providers and the first responders are getting first priority in filling requests that Polk Emergency Management officials are getting for personal protective equipment.

The county agency received 200 requests as of Monday for masks, gloves, gowns and face shields, News Channel 8 reports.

Watson Clinic says its most critical need is N-95 masks, which filters particles. It has asked for and received donations of the masks from local construction companies.

“We have a critical shortage of the medical-grade masks and these are currently on back order,” said Dr. Steven Achinger, managing partner and chairman of the board. “We cannot obtain them. We have been using construction grade N-95 masks in order to fill in that gap.”

Watson Clinic Reducing Staffing

Watson Clinic has reduced hours for some employees and furloughed others, prompted by Gov. DeSantis’ order to curtail non-emergency elective surgeries.

Furloughed employees will get two weeks’ pay and then can start using paid time off, the clinic said in a news release.

The clinic “will continue to see patients at all their locations. All unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedures or surgeries will be placed on hold until further notice,” the news release said. “If you have questions regarding upcoming procedures contact your doctor’s office directly.”

The furloughs affect 275 of the clinic’s 1,700 support staff, a spokeswoman told The Ledger.

SPCA Seeking Foster Homes for Pets

Faced with the possibility of operating with reduced staff or maybe even closing to the public, Lakeland’s SPCA Florida is trying to reduce the number of pets onsite and looking for emergency foster homes. People who are interested can apply online.

SPCA plans to distribute cats to foster homes on Saturday and dogs on Sunday.

“There will be a drive-up system, so you will not need to get out of your car or enter the building,” SPCA said in an email. “We will have your foster pet ready, along with supplies. The arrangement will be discussed with you prior to Saturday, so you will know what to expect.”

SPCA is still open for adoptions but is limiting the number of people who can be in the facility at one time. They advise checking their website for updates before coming.

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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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