COVID-19 infects ‘season’ for local groups, institutions

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Notices on the doors to the Island Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, inform people the building is closed. Manatee County closed its buildings in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

The show did not go on.

With new government guidelines and policies intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus, local organizations and institutions canceled events, shuttered buildings, tightened hours and closed down, all as they were in the throws of “high season.”

The Island Players’ stage went dark March 15 after the matinee, as the remaining performances of “Leading Ladies” were canceled at the Anna Maria theater.

Museums closed — the Anna Maria Island Historical Society’s facility on Pine Avenue, as well as the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature in Bradenton, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota and the Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez.

When Manatee County government closed buildings to the public March 18, it closed libraries, including the island branch, a destination that typically bustles with activities and patrons at this time of year.

“This is an hour-by-hour emergency event,” county administrator Cheri Coryea said of the COVID-19 response.

March 19, outside the Island Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, patron Debbie Granger of Anna Maria asked aloud whether she should return books.

“Certainly they won’t charge late fees,” she assumed. And she’s correct, as the library system announced automatic renewals until April 15.

Another of the island’s busy destinations, the Center of Anna Maria Island, suspended sports, group fitness, wellness programs and other activities.

Executive director Chris Culhane, in a statement referring to “unprecedented times,” said the nature of how the coronavirus spreads presented challenges for a place that exists to bring people together.

“Let’s continue to do all we can to prevent community spread,” Culhane wrote March 17 to the “AMI center community.”

To notify members, supporters and customers, local groups issued news releases, posted on social media and sent emails.

Some messages contained humor, more contained apologies and concerns.

“It’s been a rough week for a lot of folks, and the Privateers as well,” Kim “Syren” Boyd, president of the Anna Maria Island Privateers, told The Islander. The nonprofit postponed its One Night in Tortuga party at the Seafood Shack in Cortez.

To ticketholders, the Privateers stated, “It is with very heavy hearts that we announce that our upcoming event, One Night in Tortuga, has been postponed. … We did not make this decision lightly. Our mission is the reason for this decision — for kids and community.”

Will organizations rescue what might be left of season later this spring?

The Privateers plan to hold their Tortuga party May 9 and, also that month, Snooks Adams Kids Day.

And the Island Players board is monitoring the public health situation, but plans to hold rehearsals for the next show, “Death by Design.”


On the web

For The Islander’s list of cancellations, postponements and closings, go online to

The list is updated regularly.