Tag Archives: 08-12-2020

Bradenton Beach stands by county mask policy

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Masked customers line up Aug. 6 to checkout at the Bridge Street Bazaar, 107 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. Patrons are required to wear masks inside because a Manatee County emergency resolution mandates the face coverings within businesses. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Face masks are mandated in Bradenton Beach businesses.

City commissioners voted 2-2 Aug. 6 on a motion to approve an emergency ordinance to replace a July 27 Manatee County resolution mandating people wear masks within business establishments with an ordinance similar to the city of Bradenton.

Bradenton’s ordinance leaves it to a business to post signage that would either mandate or recommend patrons and employees wear masks.

The tie vote in Bradenton Beach meant the motion failed and the county mask mandate prevails.

Mayor John Chappie and Commissioner Marilyn Maro supported the motion. Commissioners Jake Spooner and Jan Vosburgh opposed it. Commissioner Ralph Cole, who had voiced opposition to the county mandate, was absent with excuse.

The proposed ordinance would have required businesses to post signage at points of entry advising patrons that face coverings are required inside or that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear masks in public when they can’t achieve social distance.

The measure also would have exempted people with “a religious, physical or mental limitation preventing them from wearing a face covering” from mask requirements.

“It’s a bit of a friendlier approach to the mask policy,” said city attorney Ricinda Perry.

Commissioners directed Perry to draft the ordinance Aug. 4 due to concerns with enforcing the county policy and how it may hold up to a legal challenge. Perry said a less-restrictive ordinance might not face a legal challenge.

The county resolution, however, was modeled after a Leon County mandate that withstood a lawsuit.

Vosburgh and Spooner wanted to stick with the county resolution if the Bradenton Beach Police Department had no issues enforcing the county policy, which was the case.

“I don’t want our businesses to have to get into confrontations with people over masks,” Spooner said. “Right now it’s easy for businesses to just say, ‘It’s the law.’”

None of the three commissioners on the dais moved to approve or deny Perry’s draft ordinance, so Chappie passed the gavel to Spooner and moved to approve the ordinance. Maro seconded the motion, which failed 2-2.

After the motion failed, Chappie moved to place the draft ordinance on the agenda for the commission’s Aug. 11 meeting. Maro seconded the motion.

That motion also failed 2-2, along the same lines. There was no public comment.


Bridge Street hand-sanitizer stations

The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency is taking measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor and CRA member John Chappie said Aug. 6 that the 15 hand sanitizer stations the CRA bought in May for $926.25 to place along Bridge Street arrived earlier that week. He said sanitizing lotion to fill the stations would be delivered soon.

The stations will be placed alongside the strip and filled by the CRA until the pandemic ends. Bridge Street businesses that take responsibility for the stands also can post the stands outside their establishments.

— Ryan Paice

Last Lap’s last gasp

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A 35-foot vessel, the Last Lap, sinks Aug. 9 about two miles off Anna Maria’s Bean Point. U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez dispatched a 45-foot response boat and crew to work with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office marine unit at the scene. The first responders transferred two boaters as their boat took on water. The boaters had notified Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg that the Last Lap was going down. The boaters were transported to the station in Cortez, where family awaited and a salvage team was to remove the boat from the water. Islander Photo: Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

AME staff preps for back-to-school 2020-21

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AME fourth-grader Lily Plummer and her brother, Luke, a kindergartner, shop for school supplies Aug. 5 at Target in Bradenton. “Luke is so happy to be attending big kid school with his sister Lily and both students want to be back in the classroom learning with friends,” said mom Nicole Plummer, an AME PTO officer. Islander Courtesy Photo
Desks at AME are equipped with plastic shields to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. AME purchased 200 desk shields to provide protection and enhance social distancing. Islander Photo: Courtesy Sheila Zinks
Second-grade teacher Pamela Buff works in her classroom Aug. 6, preparing for the first day of school at AME, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy AME

Don’t forget the pencils, pens, paper and face masks.

It’s back to school we go.

Anna Maria Elementary principal Jackie Featherston unveiled a heavily revised back-to-school plan to “reduce the impact of COVID-19 conditions upon returning to the district.”

Back-to-school night for 2020-21 will be a virtual event Thursday, Aug. 13, for 195 kindergarten through fifth-grade AME students, a number slightly lower than the 2019-20 enrollment.

The evening will include a video tour of AME, a message from Featherston, as well as teachers showing their classrooms and sharing information with parents and students.

For the new school year, the district offered three options for AME students: on-site learning, distance learning and a hybrid of the two.

Enrollment figures show 46 AME students as full-time e-learners and 149 students attending in-person classes.

What will school be like for AME students who return to their classrooms Monday, Aug. 17?

The front doors will open to students — who must wear face masks — at 7:55 a.m.

The school will maintain social distancing on the outdoor benches and at breakfast in the cafeteria until 8:10 a.m.

There will be a “quiet zone” outside classrooms, where students can read while maintaining social distancing on one side of the hallway.

The school will issue students and staff two washable masks that meet U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, and disposable masks will be provided as needed.

Classroom desks and tables will be sanitized daily, as will doorknobs, handles and other touch surfaces.

Also, foot-traffic in hallways will be one-way.

At 8:25 a.m., students will enter classrooms to start the school day and dismissal will be 3:15 p.m.

Students will return home by bus, car or bike, or they can walk or transfer to day care.

There will be no cafeteria pick up.

AME kindergarten teacher Kelly Crawford said she would begin the 2020-21 school year with 23 students, including five enrolled in e-learning.

“A big advantage for AME students is that our school is small, but we have a big, beautiful campus and several areas that can be used for outdoor classrooms, which helps to have limited exposure to others and we are fortunate to have desk partitions for every single student, which is not the case for (all) schools,” Crawford said Aug. 6.

She confirmed that face masks would be required during outside instruction, with exceptions for P.E. and recess.

AME Parent-Teacher Organization co-secretary Nicole Plummer has a son entering Crawford’s kindergarten class for in-person instruction.

“This year will be different for sure, as there will be no boo-hoo breakfast the first day of school for kindergarten parents,” Plummer wrote Aug. 5 in an email to The Islander.

The school purchased plastic desk shields to help against the spread of the coronavirus. The guards can be moved within a classroom and the lunchroom, if necessary.

Hand-washing or sanitizing exercises will be scheduled for each classroom hourly, between subjects and when materials change.

Additionally, staff will sanitize art and STEM classrooms between student rotations and students will bring their supplies to the art room.

P.E. will involve activities and games that allow 6 feet of separation between kids and staff.

“We will not be able to have any of our traditional festival or group events until all restrictions are lifted,” Featherston said. Therefore, the school will not stage grade-level performances in the auditorium or PTO-sponsored dinners in the cafeteria.

Public health experts agree that one measure to keep coronavirus out of schools is limiting the number of visitors. So AME will not allow visitation or volunteers on campus until authorized by the school district.

The school advisory council and PTO are planning to conduct virtual meetings and events, and visitors to the office must schedule appointments, as well as wear a mask.

Parents cannot bring food to AME or host classroom parties or birthday celebrations.

Parent and staff communication will be by phone, student planner, virtual meeting or the Remind app.

The school Facebook page and website, www.manateeschools.net/annamaria, will be routinely updated with new procedures and changes to the guidelines.

Anna Maria Elementary is at 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

For more information, call 941-778-5525.

Sheriff’s deputies help with sea turtle safety on patrol in Anna Maria

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Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputies Todd Sellitto, left and Paul Boos, pose Aug. 3 during their nighttime beach patrol in Anna Maria. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen
About a dozen hatchlings emerge Aug. 2 from a nest in Anna Maria. The photo was captured with natural light under a full moon. Islander Photo: Courtesy Minellie Martinez

Some Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies experience sea turtle activity that most others never see.

As officers on the night shift, Deputies Paul Boos and Todd Sellitto patrol the beach in Anna Maria by ATV making sure people have filled in holes and removed gear, including canopies, tents, beach chairs and rafts, at the end of the day. The items can become impediments to nesting or hatchling sea turtles during season, which runs May-October.

Sellitto said he has been watching turtles nest and hatch during his shifts for several years.

“It’s so gratifying to see the nests being laid, then two months later, watching the hatchlings make it to the water,” he said.

Usually, nests are scattered along the beach.

This season, due to a beach renourishment project south of Anna Maria, most nests were relocated to holes dug in a “nursery” area in southern Anna Maria by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers.

The human-made nests match the shape of an egg cavity dug by a sea turtle and are covered with sand.

As of Aug. 6, the relocation area contained 344 nests, marked with stakes and tape for protection and data collection by AMITW.

“The stakes and bright tape are intriguing to people, so we let them know what it means and ask them to be respectful,” Sellitto said.

Now that hatchlings have started emerging from the nursery by the hundreds, MCSO deputies also are patrolling the relocation area, educating nighttime beachgoers who witness a hatch and cautioning people against the use of flashlights.

Artificial light can disorient sea turtles away from the water, leading to their exhaustion, as well as predation.

“Tonight, when we arrived, there were people here waiting to see a hatch,” Sellitto said. “They got to
witness this amazing miracle. But we warn people not to use flashlights and also to keep their distance.”

Boos and Sellitto said most reactions from people witnessing a hatch are positive.

“Once people see these baby turtles heading to the water, it’s impossible for them not to want to learn more,” Sellitto said. “I think people are blown away when they actually see nature taking its course.”

Anna Maria mayor explains veto on breast exposure ordinance

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On the outdoor deck at the Sandbar Restaurant on the Gulffront in Anna Maria Aug. 7, guests include people in swimwear. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy rarely has used his veto power.

But he did so Aug. 3, quashing an ordinance that would have required men to cover their breasts — essentially requiring shirts for all patrons — at establishments that sell alcoholic beverages.

The city commission voted 4-1 to approve an ordinance July 30 that removed “female” from the city code that restricted women from exposing their breasts in establishments with alcohol service. The change was recommended by the city’s planning and zoning board to make the code gender-neutral.

Commissioner Jonathan Crane voted “no,” voicing concerns with fining or arresting men for showing their breasts in a beach community where they can walk shirtless.

The city’s current ordinance, which remains following Murphy’s veto, prohibits the exposure of female breasts within establishments selling alcohol and makes it unlawful for people operating such businesses to allow a woman’s exposure. City code also prohibits the exposure of any person’s genitals or pubic area, buttocks or anal cleft.

City attorney Becky Vose previously said the ordinance was implemented to block topless bars.

The amended ordinance would have required any person to cover their breast in businesses selling alcohol for on-premises consumption, including outdoor dining areas that overlook the beach. It did not establish an age-related exemption to the requirement.

Murphy explained his veto in an Aug. 3 email:

  • “The ordinance has far-reaching effects on the restaurant business.” Murphy said more input should be sought before a re-write of the ordinance.
  • “In that we live in a beach community, the social expectations and requirements for attire in all public places tends to be less stringent than in a more formal environment.”
  • Enforcement would be difficult, he said, and “could lead to charges of selective enforcement or ‘targeting.’”

Murphy asked the commissioners to “reconsider and modify this ordinance in the very near future.”

The commission could override Murphy’s veto with a supermajority — at least four votes. The next opportunity to discuss the ordinance will be at the commission meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive N.

Crane, who opposed the ordinance, said Aug. 3 that the policy change was “problematic,” but could be revisited.

Commissioner Carol Carter declined to comment Aug. 7 and Commissioner Amy Tripp did not respond to an Aug. 7 phone call from The Islander.

Commissioners Mark Short and Joe Muscatello did not respond to Aug. 7 emails from The Islander.

Chris Smargisso, owner of Slim’s Place, 9701 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, said he’d prefer commissioners leave regulation of such matters to private businesses — it’s a store owner’s right.

“Where we live is a very casual place,” Smargisso said. “To ask them to put a shirt on just to get a beer or a sandwich is kind of crazy.”

“I don’t think it’s necessary to go that far,” he said. “I didn’t know we had a problem in the first place.”

Smargisso agreed, sometimes people walk to and from the beach and stop by establishments in beach attire and they often bring kids, too.

However, Smargisso said he’d welcome the ordinance change if it applied to indoor spaces, adding that he personally would prefer to dine in a restaurant without shirtless people.

Planning and zoning board member Barbara Zdravecky, who proposed the changes to make city code more gender-neutral, said Aug. 8 the ordinance could be amended to establish an age-related exemption and specify that the breast-covering requirement only applies indoors.


State closes Bridge Street bar — again

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The Drift In, 120 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, sits empty Aug. 7. The state closed the bar — again — Aug. 4. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

One Bradenton Beach bar has closed for the third time since the coronavirus began spreading in the United States.

Joe Cuervo, operator of the Drift In, 120 Bridge St., and a second location in Bradenton, said officials from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation forced his bars to close Aug. 4.

Cuervo told The Islander Aug. 7 he was told someone filed a complaint, but the agency did not disclose who complained. Cuervo also did not disclose the state’s reason for closing his bars.

The state also closed Cuervo’s Drift In on Cortez Road in Bradenton, as well as the Lost Kangaroo Pub in downtown Bradenton.

The DBPR’s alcoholic beverages and tobacco department did not respond Aug. 7 to an email and a phone call from The Islander.

The Bradenton Beach bar first closed in March, when Gov. Ron DeSantis closed all bars in the state as the coronavirus began to spread. In phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, the bar reopened June 26 with takeout service after the DBPR issued an emergency order prohibiting bars from selling alcohol at the bar without a license to sell food.

The Drift In resumed selling alcoholic beverages July 20 by offering packaged food under a provision of its 4COP license.

The state distinguishes bars from restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages based on the establishment’s license. Bars sell more than 50% alcohol, while restaurants must sell more than 50% food.

The Drift In and several other island bars adjusted, trying to comply by selling packaged food under their 4COP licenses.

Cuervo said the state required him to apply for a restaurant/hotel license to sell fresh food, which he said was an inexpensive but tedious process.

Still, Cuervo said he hoped to acquire the license and reopen by Aug. 14.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. Hopefully, this should take care of everything.”

“We’re still fighting to get our business back up and running,” said Angela Cuervo, Joe’s wife and co-owner of the Bradenton/Bradenton Beach Drift Ins.

Anna Maria commissioner resigns

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The Anna Maria City Commission will be short one member at the end of August.

Commissioner Amy Tripp has announced she will resign at the end of the month.

She informed Mayor Dan Murphy Aug. 4 by email.

“I am resigning from my seat as a city commissioner in Anna Maria at the end of August,” Tripp wrote. “Alan and I will be moving to Black Mountain, North Carolina, at the beginning of September.”

She continued, “It has been my pleasure and honor to serve on this commission under your mayorship. I know I leave the city in good hands under your leadership and my colleagues.”

Tripp was appointed to the commission in 2018 to complete the remainder of Nancy Yetter’s term. She was automatically reelected for a full term, having been unopposed on the Nov. 3 ballot.

She did not answer an Aug. 10 call from The Islander.

“I know we will all miss Amy’s high energy level, her creativity, her candor and most of all her contributions to our city,” Murphy wrote in an Aug. 4 email to the commission.  “Amy will always be welcome back to Anna Maria!”

There was no indication from the city as to how Tripp’s seat would be filled.

— Ryan Paice


Beach renourishment makes headway

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Two bulldozers level sand pumped from a barge offshore to the beach at the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach. The project paused Aug. 7 for 7-10 days for contractors to relocate pipes to the beach near 34th Street in Holmes Beach. There, a second dredge will be added as a booster, as the equipment and the pumping approaches Bradenton Beach. The beach construction is part of a $17.3 million renourishment project, restoring sand on the shoreline lost to storms and high tides. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

Manatee County sees slowdown in COVID-19 cases

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The daily rate of COVID-19 cases appeared to be dropping in Manatee County.

“This is accurate that we are seeing a slight slowing of positive cases daily,” Jake Saur, Manatee County public safety director, wrote The Islander Aug. 6. “This is backed up by our percent positive of cases going down as well.”

While the overall percentage rate of positive cases of the novel coronavirus of those tested in the county — starting March 1 — increased to 10.9% as of Aug. 6, the percent positive for new cases in the past 14 days was 7.3% and had dropped to 7% in the past week, according to DOH-Manatee.

The county positivity rate reached 17% in April, when fewer tests were available.

As of Aug. 6, 9,050 people in the county had tested positive for COVID-19 of 77,998 people tested, according to the Florida Department of Health. That’s an increase of 713 positive cases when compared with July 30, when 8,337 of 73,970 local people tested positive.

However, state testing sites, including those in Bradenton and Palmetto, were closed July 31-Aug. 4 in anticipation of potential impacts from Tropical Storm Isaias, which may have affected data.

Cases are based on individuals tested since March 1, not the number of tests or current positives.

On Anna Maria Island, 22 people in Bradenton Beach, 13 in Holmes Beach and three in Anna Maria had tested positive.

Additionally, 94 nonresidents visiting the county tested positive as of Aug. 6, compared with 19 nonresidents July 1.

Nonresidents are people who test positive in Florida but are residents of another state.

As of July 27, 5,743 people in the county were considered recovered from the virus, according to DOH-Manatee.

A total of 589 people had been hospitalized and 189 people had died due to the virus in the county.

As of Aug. 6, 92 COVID-19 patients were in county hospitals, with 15 patients in intensive care units. A week prior, 140 people sick with the virus were in local hospitals, of which 32 were in the ICU, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

“We are moving in the right direction,” Saur wrote. “We can attribute the decrease in positive cases to better awareness from the public on how to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

He attributed the downward trend to businesses that now require face coverings, enacted by some cities, including Anna Maria and Holmes Beach, and mandated by the county July 27.

Previously, Saur also said contract tracing was helping to slow the spread.

Contact tracers work with patients to reach out to people who may have been in close contact with an infected person to warn them about their possible exposure and suggest precautions, such as testing and self-isolation.

As of July 27, DOH-Manatee had a team of seven epidemiologists, up from two, and 16 contact tracers.

Saur said precautions are essential.

“Social distancing, avoiding large crowds and wearing face coverings when out in public is the way to stop community spread and get our positive cases down,” he wrote. “These measures will have to continue until we have a safe vaccine available to stamp out COVID-19.”