Vigilance and calm were the themes of the day Tuesday during the bi-monthly meeting of the Port St. Joe City Commission.

Mayor Rex Buzzett was joined by Sarah Hinds, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Gulf County, in urging residents to seek out expert advice while exercising caution in what Buzzett called a serious situation.

“Pay attention to the experts, don’t listen to your neighbors or friends but go to the proper sources,” Buzzett said. “We can beat it, but we need to take it seriously.

“Working together we can be the safest city in the state of Florida.

He urged citizens not to panic or horde basic supplies, groceries stores remain open.

“Be responsible,” Buzzett said.

City Hall, Buzzett added, will remain open for the present time though the city is urging to do business with the city by phone or online.

Commissioners, only three were in attendance due to illness (not coronavirus) or Spring Break travel, passed a resolution declaring a public health emergency.

That resolution would allow the city the resources to take certain action in the case of an outbreak of the virus in the county.

But, trying to stamp out rumors, Hinds emphasized that the county had yet to see a single case of presumptive positive coronavirus.

Franklin County has not seen a case nor has Bay.

The department, she added, also currently has sufficient supplies of tests for coronavirus, but emphasized that individuals who believe they might have the virus should first contact their health provider.

“Call your health provider to assess the symptoms,” Hinds said, adding that testing is done on a state-mandated protocol based on symptoms.

“We are not worried about testing.”

Do not show up at a doctor’s office.

The department and county have also been through difficult situations, she added.

“We have a more seasoned situation,” Hinds said. “We are in a better-prepared situation.”

The focus at the current time, she continued, is on the so-called “flattening the curve” of new cases to avoid the overrun of the health care system.

No spikes and a more gradual rollout of cases is a goal, Hinds added.

Shuttering of schools or professional sports is meant to frighten.

“The strategy is to limit the spread,” Hinds said. “We are dealing with a new virus. There is panic is some areas.

“All strategies are to straighten the curve. We want to keep the medical system manageable.”

And with most variations of the flu, she said, 80 percent of those infected will experience little or no symptoms.

Protecting those most vulnerable, over age 60 or individuals with underlying conditions that compromise immune or other essential systems is the target. Hinds said, as with any flu season.

Hinds also emphasized that the coronavirus outbreak remains “an evolving situation.”

“If we adopt the proper strategies we’ll be okay,” she continued. “We all play a role in this.”

Candidate qualifying

Candidate qualifying for the Group III and IV seats, currently held by Commissioners Brett Lowry and Scott Hoffman, is underway and will continue until 12 noon ET Wednesday.


Buzzett urged residents to respond to the letters that will arrive shortly regarding the census.

In short, he said, make sure everybody is counted.

“It is so important,” Buzzett said. “All of our state and federal funding depends on that census.”


The Salt Air Farmers Market scheduled for Saturday and next week’s Blues on Reid event have been cancelled.