FORT PIERCE, Fla. — From the new school year to hurricane season preparedness, St. Lucie County leaders provided an update Thursday on their response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 4,004 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in St. Lucie County, including 94 deaths.
"The hope is that we have the high level of voluntary compliance, we begin to knock this back again, and we don't have to go to further steps as we're seeing around the country. Places having to go back and start going into some level of shutdown. We really don't want to do that," said Deputy County Administrator Mark Satterlee.
Satterlee reiterated that a countywide mask mandate remains in effect, which requires everyone to wear face coverings inside all public buildings, businesses, and establishments, as well as outdoors when social distancing cannot be practiced.
In addition, masks must be worn by customers who are dining inside and outside of restaurants, except when they are "actively consuming food and beverages."
Ron Parrish, the public safety director for St. Lucie County, stressed that with an active hurricane season upon us, everyone should get prepared now with their hurricane kit, including supplies, medication, and evacuation plans.
"We have not reached the height of the hurricane season, and we are now on our seventh named storm," Parrish said.
Parrish said that while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided guidance on the operation of emergency shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic, capacity will be limited, especially at special needs shelters.
"If we are under a tropical storm or hurricane warning, sheltering in place should be the first option," Parrish said. "Going to a shelter should be a place of last resort. You will be more comfortable staying with friends or relatives outside of the low-lying areas and flood zones."
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Hurricane Guide
With regard to schools, the 2020-21 academic year in St. Lucie County is scheduled to start on Monday, Aug. 24.
St. Lucie Public Schools are offering students three learning options:
- Traditional in-classroom instruction
- MySchool Online, a distance learning model in which students will follow a real-time bell schedule with live teachers
- Mosaic Digital Academy
The school district has taken extra precautions to keep students and staff members safe, including requiring everyone to wear a face covering in schools, urging people to practice social distancing whenever possible, offering frequent hand washing breaks, and limiting visitors into schools.
"We haven't seen the term 'super spreaders' in kids," said Clint Sperber, the health director for St. Lucie County. "We really haven't seen that from a child perspective."