Capital city officials met privately to develop coronavirus emergency response

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Officials met in City Hall Friday to discuss coronavirus public awareness.

Tallahassee and Leon County agencies, medical centers and schools are collaborating to promote coronavirus-combating advice from federal and state health officials, local officials announced Monday.

Institutional leaders gathered in the Tallahassee City Hall Thursday to discuss the coronavirus, now confirmed in Florida, and how to collectively raise public awareness and start proactive preparedness. Meeting attendees included representatives from Tallahassee and Leon County governments, Department of Health (DOH) in Leon County and the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

Leading agencies will promote advice from health care professionals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to educate people to calmly take preventive action steps that can enhance the safety of individuals, families, schools, and businesses.

“The Governor said last week that the State of Florida is ready, and we want everyone to know that the Tallahassee community is also prepared,” Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey said in a statement. “We are actively monitoring the situation and are united in how we intend to prepare and protect the public — and to effectively meet this challenge with every necessary and appropriate resource.”

Leon County Administrator Vincent Long said the county is ready to convene health experts, as when natural disasters strike.

“As with H1N1 swine flu, Ebola, and the Zika virus, County Emergency Management will coordinate with the Florida Department of Health to engage our many local and state agencies in preparedness and response,” Long said.

Among officials’ tips for everyone to know is stay home from school or work if you’re sick, said DOH Leon County Director Claudia Blackburn. She also advised frequent hand washing, sneezing or coughing into the fold of your arm or into a tissue that is properly discarded, and other highly recommended, simple suggestions from the CDC and DOH officials.

“Individually and collectively, our local institutions are prepared, and we want to assure the public that we are here to serve the entire community in facing this potential threat,” Blackburn said. “We recommend that everyone review the priority guidelines and updates from the CDC.”

For now, the leaders of these groups want to provide information to the public to keep calm, stay informed, and to take appropriate precautionary steps.

The CDC recommends people wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer when water isn’t available. And when people exhibit respiratory disease symptoms, the agency recommends they stay home.

Additionally, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and cleaning frequently touched surfaces can help reduce disease spread. Even flu shots defend against the coronavirus by reducing people’s chance of getting the flu, weakening the immune system.

Higher education officials from Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College joined the coalition. Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna emphasized that students, parents, faculty, and staff should know that “our district makes the safety and well-being of all its overarching daily priority, particularly in the face of any new threat.”

“We have a separate plan in place to communicate with students, their families, and our staff,” Hanna said. “If your child isn’t feeling well, the best policy is to have them stay home until they’re better, for their sake and that of others.”

Sue Dick, president and CEO of the Tallahassee Chamber, said it is poised to provide active and continued outreach to the business community to be a reliable resource.

“The good health and safety of our labor force in every workplace in the community is of priority concern to the diverse businesses that feel that deep responsibility,” said Dick. “Working with all of the key stakeholders, we’re providing our business community with as much information as possible about how to minimize the risk of this threat.”

Capital Health Plan, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and Capital Regional Medical Center rounded out the group.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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