Tag Archives: Feature

Island food pantry receives $30K from county ‘CARES’ fund

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Mayors Feed the Hungry representatives stand with Roser Food Pantry chair Jack Brennan, second from left, who holds a $30,000 check Dec. 31, 2020, funded by the CARES Act. From left, AID president Cornelia Zanetti, Brennan, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, Mt. Carmel Resource Center director Shirley Pearson, former Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac, Mayors Feed the Hungry chair Joel Swallow and Fran Maxon Real Estate co-owner Rich Bell. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Some support for needy islanders arrived with the new year.

Local officials and representatives from the Mayors Feed the Hungry program delivered a $30,000 check Dec. 31 to the Roser Food Pantry in Anna Maria after some confusion developed regarding the island’s food assistance and relief funds.

Those in attendance for the presentation included Roser Food Pantry chair Jack Brennan, who accepted the donation, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, former Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac and Mayors Feed the Hungry chair Joel Swallow.

“We plan to continue the Sponsored Food Recipient Program more aggressively,” Brennan said in a Dec. 31 interview with The Islander. “Anyone that we can conceive of that has been affected negatively by COVID-19, we’re going to provide food assistance.”

He said the $30,000 donation should help the pantry support needy islanders through July.

“It feels really good,” Brennan said. “Anyone that thinks of this island thinks in terms of affluence, but in reality, there are a lot of people in need.”

Mayors Feed the Hungry program also donated $3,000 to All Island Denominations, the organization of island churches that supports the pantry and also provides assistance to needy islanders.

The donations were funded through the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which sent $70 million in federal relief to the county.

County commissioners agreed in November 2020 to designate $150,000 in CARES Act funds for the Mayors Feed the Hungry program, with the county’s municipalities fronting $25,000 each — to be reimbursed by the county.

Island officials expressed concerns about the distribution of funding, saying the Mayors Feed the Hungry partners lacked island-based organizations.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy asked program director Scott Biehler to send a portion of the $75,000 funding earmarked for the island cities to the Roser pantry and AID, since both help islanders.

County commissioners then reversed course, granting $450,000 in CARES Act funding directly to the Mayors Feed the Hungry program — a decision that seemingly left the island without relief funds.

However, Swallow said Dec. 31 that Benac helped secure funding for the island during her final days as a commissioner.

“It’s not easy to get that money out in a short amount of time,” Benac said. “It really takes a lot of legwork. …But we got it done. So we’re really pleased to see that money go to the communities where it needs to go.”

Murphy told The Islander he was satisfied with the reallocation.

“I thought it would be good to channel some of those funds out here to Anna Maria,” he said. “I’m just real pleased we were able to accomplish that.”

“This is a great boon, not only for the food pantry but also for All Island Denominations,” he added. “Both of those agencies do a tremendous job of helping the people that are here in this community out here on the island.”


To get help

For more information about the Roser Food Pantry, go to roserchurch.com or call Roser at 941-778-0414. Roser is at 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

For more AID information, contact the office or administrator of any of the island churches.


About the new stimulus package

With Congress at odds over $2,000 stimulus checks, it may be best to break down what was approved.

The $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act, which Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law, included a $900 billion stimulus relief package that will provide:

  • $600 direct payments per adult citizen;
  • $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans;
  • $15 billion for live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions;
  • $300 per week for unemployment insurance benefits per individual;
  • $25 billion for rental assistance and an eviction moratorium extension.

The stimulus would be the first COVID-19 relief bill since the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed in March and extended the CARES Act funding deadline through 2021.

The first aid bill distributed $500 billion in direct payments to U.S. citizens, created the PPP with a $669 billion fund, $500 billion in corporate loans and $339.8 billion to state and local governments.

The CARES Act sent $70 million to the Manatee County coffers, which then allowed programs to redistribute the money.

The PPP sent more than $20 million to Anna Maria Island businesses, as business owners in Anna Maria received $10,288,682 in loans or grants, $3,682,003 in Bradenton Beach and $6,107,351 in Holmes Beach.

The remaining $1.4 trillion in the CAA is attributed to an omnibus government spending bill to keep the federal government from shutting down.

— Ryan Paice

C’mon in! The water’s fine for a plunge — and some charity

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Nearly 100 people — some in costume, some in swimsuits — splash Jan. 1 in the Gulf waters to raise money for charity as part of Clancy’s 13th annual Shamrock Shiver.
New Year’s celebrants splash Jan. 1 into the Gulf of Mexico for the 13th annual Shamrock Shiver. The charity event hosted by Clancy’s Irish Sports Pub, 6218 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, has raised more than $273,500 over the years. Islander Photos: Amy V.T. Moriarty
James Lightfoot, left, as Ace Ventura, Superwoman RuthAnn Hopkins and Barry Hopkins, the chicken, enjoy a few laughs while waiting for the plunge.
Barry Hopkins of Bradenton lays an egg Jan. 1 while waiting to plunge into the Gulf of Mexico for the 13th annual Shamrock Shiver.
James Lightfoot, left dressed as Ace Ventura, and RuthAnn Hopkins ready themselves Jan. 1 to plunge into the Gulf along with nearly 100 others who took part in the 13th annual Shamrock Shiver.
Madeline, 3, left, and mom, Karen Haacke, check out the sand before plunging into the Gulf. Madeline first participated as a 3-month-old, and she’s plunged every year since.
A group of friends take a few minutes Jan. 1 to splash around in the Gulf after charging in for the 13th annual Shamrock Shiver.
Rayme Stowe, left, owner of Clancy’s, poses on the beach with her best friend, Lisa Pierce, before the Jan. 1 13th annual Shamrock Shiver sponsored by Clancy’s. Stowe and Pierce helped start up the Shamrock Shiver Charity Plunge.

Running headlong into the Gulf of Mexico was a great way to start 2021.

Nearly 100 people thought so, anyway, as they gathered Jan. 1 on the shore at Cortez Beach, between Fourth and Twelfth streets south along Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach, for Clancy’s 13th annual Shamrock Shiver.

Though the noon sky was clear and the temperature on the beach 82 degrees, plunger James Lightfoot of Bradenton said the water was cold.

“This is the first time I did this, and the water was cold, but I’m glad I did it,” Lightfoot said after emerging from the Gulf.

NOAA’s water temperature table for the Gulf of Mexico put the temp at about 65 degrees.

Lightfoot, dressed as Ace Ventura, was one of more than a dozen people dressed in costume for a crowd-judged contest.

What got the most laughs and love from the crowd? A group of friends donning costumes and holding signs that expressed their opinion of 2020.

Mark Gritz wore an inflatable poop emoji costume while his wife, Patty, was made up as a bottle of hand sanitizer and friends Robert Nott and Shona LaBaff wore giant rolls of toilet paper messages.

Barry Hopkins dressed as a chicken and laid (dropped) yellow plastic eggs on the beach to the onlookers' delight. His wife, RuthAnn, arrived as Superwoman “to save the day.”

Other costumed plungers taking part in the contest were dinosaurs, a man in a hospital gown open in back to reveal a fake tush and some hula dancers.

The plunge began in 2009 with a group of friends who frequented Clancy’s outdoor Tiki Bar and preferred to do something fun to raise money for charity as an alternative to the traditional holiday parties, Rayma Stowe said.

Stowe — past proprietor of the Rod & Reel Pier —  is a founding member of the event and her Bradenton restaurant and bar, Clancy’s Irish Pub and Sports Bar, 6218 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, annually sponsors and hosts the event, which includes an after-party with music, raffles and food and beverages.

“It’s a fun way to start the new year,” Stowe said.

“And it keeps us off the streets New Year’s Eve,” joked Lisa Pierce, Stowe’s friend and another founder of the charity event.

Over the years, Clancy’s has helped raise $273,500 with the Shamrock Shiver.

The Islander newspaper was a sponsor this year.

The 2020 shiver proceeds, which Stowe estimated at more than $25,000, will be divided among four local charities: The Blessing Bags Project, Feeding Empty Little Tummies, Healthy Teens Coalition of Manatee County and Parenting Matters.

Donations will be accepted until at least Jan. 8 — either at Clancy’s or online at clancysirishsportspub.com, Pierce said.

For more information, go to clancysirishsportspub.com or call Stowe at 941-720-4072.

Privateers embark on Golden Jubilee

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audience: The Anna Maria Island Privateers capture the Anna Maria City Jail March 7, 2020, as Shelly “Fireball” Hill detains Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy in “chains” during the Anna Maria Island Heritage Day Festival. Islander File Photo: Karen Riley-Love

The Anna Maria Island Privateers are going for “gold” in 2021.

Since 1971, the nonprofit has raised money for kids and community and will continue to sail their route in 2021, while celebrating a “Golden Jubilee.”

The anniversary will begin with a “Conquest of the City of Anna Maria” at noon Saturday, Jan. 2.

An invitation on the group’s social media page describes the event as “a fun day on the island,” beginning at the Anna Maria City Pier and moving along Pine Avenue, South Bay Boulevard and Gulf Drive, with stops at businesses, restaurants, bars and the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum, 420 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

Next on the calendar will be the first fundraiser of the year — set for 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8, when Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie will be “dragged from his office and shackled to the mast of the Privateers 60-foot pirate boat/float, Skullywag,” according to a Dec. 22 news release.

For Chappie’s release, the Privateers will demand a key to the city, a Letter of Marque — otherwise known as a proclamation when pirates and privateers sailed the seas — and ransom.

The ransom could pay for Chappie’s release or payments could encourage the krewe to keep him. In either case, the funds will go toward the group’s annual scholarship program.

During the event, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon-cutting to recognize the group’s 50 years on the island.

Also, there will be a “ship-gate” party, with Champagne and food.

The nonprofit’s first recorded fundraiser was a mullet smoke, which sold out early and raised more than $2,000, veteran Privateer John “Barbarosa” Swager said Nov. 12 in a phone interview with The Islander.

Since then, the nonprofit has expanded its activities to include golf tournaments, captures and conquests, parades, children’s parties, galas and a series of winter Thieves Markets.

The first of 2021 will bring a Thieves Market — a pirate-style flea market— 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at GT Bray Recreation Center, 5502 33rd Ave. Drive W., Bradenton.

The group’s golden jubilee kickoff party will be a Casino Royale event, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, at the Bradenton Moose Lodge, 310 44th Ave. E., Bradenton. The gala event is open to the public at the cost of $52 per ticket.

Another event in the yearlong celebration, Swager said, is a black-tie gala, possibly in November.

For more information, contact Tim “Hammer” Thompson at 941-780-1668 or tlt_florida@yahoo.com.


What’s a privateer?

“A privateer was a pirate with papers. As the name suggests, privateers were private individuals commissioned by governments to carry out quasi-military activities,” according to www.britannica.com.

In other words, privateers were hired to go after the pirates who had stolen government-owned property. Usually on the high seas. And usually with extreme force.


What are the Anna Maria Island Privateers?

A 501c3 nonprofit organization, the Anna Maria Island Privateers raise funds for the betterment of the community.

According to lore, and their website, amiprivateers.memberlodge.org, the Privateers were founded by four men who wanted to serve the community by raising money to better youth.


AMI Privateer reaches end of motorcycle contest

Motorcycle enthusiast, barbecue business owner and longtime member of the Privateers John Swager entered the Orange County Choppers Dream Chopper competition in October, hoping to win a custom-built chopper valued at $100,000.

The contest was conducted online with votes by supporters.

Swager made it as far as the quarterfinals.

Had he won, he hoped to raffle the bike as a fundraiser for the Anna Maria Island Privateers’ 50th anniversary, with the winner being announced at a gala event.

Local Audubon count sets records

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A map shows the Bradenton Circle for the National Audubon Society’s 121st Christmas Bird Count. Islander Courtesy Image
An American Wigeon observed in the Bradenton Circle’s Christmas Bird Count — a new species for 2020. Islander Courtesy Photo: Kathy Doddridge

Volunteers in the “Bradenton Circle” tallied a record number of species during their Christmas Bird Count.

Coordinator Kathy Doddridge reported Dec. 26 a record 158 species during the count conducted Dec. 19 and a record 52,836 individual birds.

The number of species reported in 2019 was 150 and the number of birds, 31,644.

The weather for the 2020 count was clear and cool.

There were 61 participants.

The Bradenton Circle count is part of the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, one of the longest-running wildlife surveys, with citizens collecting data used to assess the health of bird populations and guide conservation actions.

Nationwide, the CBC was being conducted through Jan. 5, after beginning Dec. 14.

For the full report on the Bradenton count, read the Jan. 6, 2021, issue of The Islander.

Early COVID-19 vaccine shots go to front-liners, first responders

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Dr. Jennifer Bencie, DOH-Manatee health officer, receives the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 22 at a vaccination tent on the grounds of the Manatee County Public Safety Center, 2101 47th Terrace E., Bradenton. Islander Courtesy Photo

A possible solution to the pandemic has arrived.

The first doses of the Moderna vaccinations for the novel coronavirus were administered in Manatee County Dec. 22.

As of Dec. 24, 68,133 doses had been administered throughout the state, according to the Florida Department of Health.

“Pinellas County was one of the first communities in Florida to receive large quantities of the COVID-19 vaccination,” said county public safety director Jacob Saur Dec. 21. “They had sufficient supplies such that they were able to offer a small amount to our first responders, so tomorrow we’ll be getting our front-line medical responders the first doses. Tomorrow will be an opportunity to show the community that the vaccine is arriving and data has shown that it is safe to administer.”

According to a statement issued that day by Gov. Ron DeSantis, long-term care facility staff and residents, people more than 65 years old and health care providers “with direct contact” were among the first to receive the vaccine in the state.

When asked Dec. 21 by The Islander about the availability of vaccines to Anna Maria Island front-line providers, James Crutchfield, Manatee County Chief of Emergency Medical Services, said, “Yes, our ambulances are stationed all over the county. The ambulance crew that is on the island could be vaccinated if the individuals wish.”

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said the county issued a questionnaire to his department to determine how many officers would be administered the vaccine.

“I will be taking it,” Tokajer said. “I hope that others also understand that it is a safe step in getting us on the other side of this and back to a sense of normalcy.”

A report of vaccine administration is available at floridahealthcovid19.gov.

In the meantime, new cases of the novel coronavirus have remained steady in the county, but could be declining.

Between Dec. 18-24, 892 new cases of COVID-19 were reported by the DOH-Manatee County. This represents a decrease in 190 reported cases from the previous week.

As of Dec. 24, 121 people in Holmes Beach, 55 people in Bradenton Beach and 34 people in Anna Maria had tested positive for COVID-19 since the first case was reported in the county in March.

Anna Maria and Holmes Beach mandates state that people more than 6-years-old wear a face covering when closer than 6 feet to another person not in the same household.

Bradenton Beach did not provide such a mandate, asking instead that people wear masks in businesses that request such precautions.

According to metrics provided by the DOH, as of Dec. 24, 20,506 people had tested positive for the virus in Manatee County, with 407 fatalities and 1,052 hospitalizations.

Pier opening ‘best’ 2020 gift for islanders

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An angler wets his line Dec. 23 at the T-end of the Anna Maria City Pier as a paddleboarder pushes along in the bay. The pier and its grill and bait shop fully opened earlier in December. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice
Local musician Trevor Bystrom, on guitar, and percussionist James Hershey entertain Dec. 23 at the T-end of the new Anna Maria City Pier, where people were dining and enjoying libations from the City Pier Grill & Bait Shop. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

People on Anna Maria Island enjoyed one of 2020’s best gifts months before the holiday season came around.

The new Anna Maria City Pier opened on a limited basis in June for the first time since Hurricane Irma closed the historic pier in September 2017, but full access to the $6.8 million structure and its grill and bait shop opened earlier in December — just in time for the holidays.

Multiple city officials, including Mayor Dan Murphy and Commissioner Mark Short, named the pier’s completion the city’s top accomplishment of 2020.

“The opening of the Anna Maria City Pier, now with its grill and bait shop, is the best gift the city could give to island residents and visitors at this time of year,” Commissioner Carol Carter told The Islander Dec. 23.

The attraction was packed with visitors and anglers despite a chilly December breeze the day before Christmas Eve.

Island-themed tunes hummed from the T-end’s loudspeakers, broken up only by the grill’s occasional order announcements and the sound of anglers casting their lines.

Tampa-resident Marion Muffie, with a fishing pole in hand, told The Islander her family hadn’t had much luck fishing at the T-end, but was enjoying it regardless.

“The only thing we caught today was a shell,” Muffie said with a chuckle. “But we’re just crappy at fishing! We’re having a good time.”

She added that they visit the area a couple of times a year to fish at the end of the pier but hadn’t visited since the historic pier was shut down.

“We’ve been coming down here for years, so we were really pleased to hear the pier was open again,” Muffie said. “We love it out here. It’s just special.”

Chicago-resident Isaiah Rosas told The Islander that he caught a few mullet, which he kept in a bucket of water to his side, but didn’t have a knife to clean the fish, so he’d probably have to toss them back.

Regardless, Rosas said he was enjoying fishing at the pier while visiting family on the island. He called the pier one of the best fishing spots on the island, adding that he missed the pier in prior visits when it was closed.

“I love having the pier back,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to get out here and go fishing and I think it looks amazing.”

Sarasota-resident Kim Schmeits, sipping a beverage outside the bait shop window, told The Islander that — despite living nearby — the pier is his “little getaway.”

“We just hop up here occasionally,” Schmeits said. “We love it here. It’s very relaxed.”

“We live in paradise, right? But we come here and feel a little bit like we’re on vacation,” Schmeits added.

By 5 p.m., the canned island-style music floating across the T-end gave way to live music by Trevor Bystrom and percussionist James Hershey, “island-grown” musicians who perform at a variety of island venues.

Fishing coincides with the grill and bait shop hours, which are 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Balance, reciprocity desired for 2021 in Holmes Beach

It was a year packed with challenges.

In light of struggles, cutbacks and changes due to the novel coronavirus, Holmes Beach staff and officials worked together to support the city, including striving to satisfy residents and vacationers.

“Striking that balance between visitors and residents has been an ongoing issue in Holmes Beach for many years,” Mayor Judy Titsworth said Dec. 22. “But amazing progress was made in 2020, even with the pandemic. The community really came together to support our parks, which I think was so important during this difficult time.”

The city addressed alternative forms of transportation, vacation rental ordinances, updates to the city’s recreational complex and extensive stormwater improvements in 2020.

“It was amazing that the generosity of the community allowed us to add so much to our parks,” Titsworth said, listing the new skate park, shuffleboard, Bocce ball and pickleball courts among the achievements.

Commission Chair Jim Kihm also cited the importance of community involvement in 2020 and said he hopes 2021 brings more communication between residents and business owners.

“I really enjoy getting out in the city and talking with people about their concerns,” he said. “Among my resolutions for next year is to spend more time interacting with people in the city.”

Kihm said the current commission is “very committed and involved in making the city a great place to live, visit and work.”

Commissioner Carol Soustek shared similar sentiments, adding that she hopes county officials and their staff recognize the importance of the three island municipalities — Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach.

“We have got to get the county to acknowledge these are cities out here, not just beaches,” she said. “And we need them to come out here and figure out what is going on and get the true flavor of the island. It is all about communication.”

Commissioner Kim Rash, who refers to himself as “the voice of the residents,” also acknowledged that communication would be vital in 2021.

“We did great in 2020, but I know we have more to do on the noise issues from rentals and more to do to help with traffic on the island,” Rash said. “It has gotten much better with the regulations we added in the past year and also, the police department has done an excellent job of enforcing those regulations.”

Commissioner Terry Schaefer said environmental concerns are at the top of his list for 2021.

And addressing those concerns will be a project that connects the three cities, as well as the county.

“Each accomplishment done collectively will support our entire community,” he said. “We all deal with the same issues and working together will be the best way to provide solutions for the benefit of all.”

Newly elected Commissioner Jayne Christenson echoed the others, saying discussions with the county on traffic, parking and environmental impacts are key to the new year.

“I want to see a positive change in communications with the county,” she said. “In the past we have operated on our own out here on the island and taken what was given to us. I think this is the year to step up and look for partnership opportunities with the county. I feel like we might have woke them up.”

Christenson said parking concerns, a controversial issue addressed following street closures due to the pandemic, created a dialogue with county officials about challenges faced by island residents and business owners.

“It woke up the sleeping bear,” she said. “Let’s hope 2021 is the year to bring us all together.”

Kihm also said communication with the county would be key to success in 2021.

“We are all in this together,” he said. “Now is the time.”


Bradenton Beach officials unresponsive

Bradenton Beach officials, including Mayor John Chappie and the city’s four commissioners, did not respond to calls from The Islander during the week beginning Dec. 21 asking about their hopes and goals for 2021.

— Ryan Paice

‘Toy’ vehicles remain an issue in Holmes Beach

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Two autocycles sit Oct. 15 outside the Toy Barn, 5604 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. Following an ordinance prohibiting the vehicles, the business is the singular provider for such rentals. Islander File Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

Some people prefer the road less traveled.

Following more than a year of deliberation, Holmes Beach has settled on regulations for alternative transportation modes.

“The vehicles that we have chosen to take action on are treated like toys by visitors,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said Dec. 17. “People must understand that our island is not an amusement park.”

In November, autocycles, three-wheeled motor vehicles with a steering wheel and side-by-side seats that are certified as motorcycles, were prohibited for rental, with an exception grandfathered for a company already offering the vehicles for rent.

In May, Holmes Beach commissioners unanimously approved the final reading of an ordinance regulating bike- and scooter-shares, as well as the rental and operation of motorized scooters, Segways and scooter cars branded as ScootCoupes.

A ScootCoupe is an open-air, three-wheeled vehicle powered by a 49cc engine, and while they are not available for rent in Holmes Beach, they are offered for rent in Anna Maria.

The ordinance also bans megacycles from rental or operation in the city.

A “megacycle” is a four-wheeled, pedal-powered vehicle that can hold 5-15 people and typically does not exceed 15 mph.

Additionally, the ordinance includes regulatory powers for the city regarding the rental of 49cc scooters, mopeds and Segways.

Segways and electric bicycles are not offered for rent in the city — except Segway tours — but people are permitted to operate their own vehicles.

Larger scooters, such as the 49cc Vespa, are allowed on city streets but are not allowed on bike lanes and sidewalks, according to state law.

“All of those vehicles are so low to the ground,” Tokajer said of the prohibited means of transportation. “We already are worrying about the bicyclists and pedestrians, so to add these vehicles into the mix just makes it more of a safety concern.”

Vaccine tracking, COVID-19 cases continue rise

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Gov DeSantis

The governor appears confident the solution is on the horizon.

“I’m pleased to announce that Walgreens will begin their mission to vaccinate staff and residents at FL’s long-term care facilities tomorrow in Jacksonville — 3 days ahead of schedule. I appreciate Walgreens for leaning in. There is no time to waste!” Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted Dec. 17.

According to a statement released Dec. 17 by the Florida Department of Health, “367,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be distributed next week,” under emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

An FDA panel recommended the drug’s use Dec. 17.

First-responders, education providers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions will be the first to receive the vaccine, before the general public.

In the meantime, new cases of the novel coronavirus continued to escalate in Manatee County. Between Dec. 11 and Dec. 17, 1,082 new cases of COVID-19 were reported by the Florida Department of Health.

Anna Maria Island also has seen an increase in cases.

As of Dec. 18, 107 people in Holmes Beach, 53 people in Bradenton Beach and 31 people in Anna Maria had tested positive for COVID-19 since the first case was reported in March in the county.

According to the DOH metrics as of Dec. 17, 19,612 people tested positive for the virus in Manatee County, and there were 400 fatalities.

Combating the spread

Meanwhile, efforts to control the virus spread continued, with Holmes Beach and Anna Maria maintaining mandates on face coverings.

The cities of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach require people to wear masks on city property.

Also, in both municipalities, businesses can opt to post regulations for masks and individuals who do not follow regulations may be trespassed by local law enforcement.

Bradenton Beach officials have recommended face masks but never enacted a city mandate.

At the federal level, with more than 1.4 million new virus cases between Dec. 11 and Dec. 17, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people to celebrate the winter holidays at home and to avoid gatherings with those not in their household.

For those who decide to attend holiday gatherings outside their home, the CDC suggests:

  • Have conversations with the host ahead of time to understand expectations for the celebration;
  • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, utensils and condiments;
  • Wear a mask — with two or more layers — indoors and outdoors;
  • Avoid shouting or singing;
  • Stay home if you are sick or have been near someone who thinks they may have or have been exposed to COVID-19;
  • Stay at least 6 feet from those not in your household, whether indoors or outdoors.

The virus is spread person-to-person in close contact and via air droplets.

The CDC says, “Indoors or outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.”

School for Constructive Play kids get crafty for Christmas

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Little elves sing Christmas songs Students in the 4- and 5-year-old class wear elf costumes Dec. 11 to perform “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” for a video sent to families.
School for Constructive Play students Ella Melancon, left, and Jackson Griffin use their foot- and handprints Dec. 11 to make Christmas trees and reindeer faces on canvas for their parents. The school is housed at but not affiliated with Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. Islander Courtesy Photos: SCP/Pam Bertrand
Emmy Lewetag, left, Willow Palmer and Quinn Whiteside sit under the student-made Christmas tree Dec. 11 with a favorite holiday storybook.
Grady Neidzwick, left, Alianna Hopkins and Lennon Hensley show off their snowperson art made using handprints.
Cora Cole, left, and Juleitte Sato laugh while making snowperson cards for their families. They used handprints to make the cover art.

Students at the School for Constructive Play used their hands and feet to create holiday-inspired art gifts for their families.

The 4- and 5-year-old class used footprints to make Christmas trees and handprints to make a reindeer face, said Pam Bertrand, owner of the preschool at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

The 3-year-old class made “mistletoes” using footprints connected at the heels and pointed downward to form bells.

While the 1- and 2-year-old class made “I love you snow much” snowpeople.

Their paintings were done on canvas to be long-term keepsakes, Bertrand said.

In addition to “working hard on their surprises” for family, Bertrand said students in December kept their eyes on the school Elf on the Shelf, whom they named “M.”

“We’re all excited for Santa,” she added. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the jolly elf can’t visit the school as he’s done in years past, but students remained excited because “they know he’s coming to their houses,” Bertrand said.

The school also produced its annual holiday show for their families but adjusted due to the pandemic.

Rather than a schoolwide in-person performance, a video was made of each class performance and sent to parents, Bertrand said.

The 4- and 5-year-old class wore elf costumes and sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” while the 3-year-old class performance was a dance to holiday music, Bertrand said.

For more, call the school at 941-778-2210.