Tag Archives: Featured Image

Anna Maria vacationer injured in hit-and-run

thumb image
The red mirror — possibly from a 1990s Toyota or Nissan sedan — was recovered from a hit-and-run scene in Anna Maria. Islander Courtesy Photo

Gustavo Lauria waved to passersby for help, despite his injured arm.

Lauria, 51, of Key Biscayne, had been struck by a vehicle at 9:12 p.m. May 21 while walking in the 300 block of North Bay Boulevard near Hibiscus in Anna Maria, according to a Florida traffic crash report from the state highway patrol.

The motorist in the southbound red sedan did not stop.

Neither did passersby in at least three vehicles.

Now Lauria, who was hospitalized and underwent surgery, is seeking witnesses and asking Islander readers to assist with finding the motorist.

“If anyone knows someone who lives in the area who may have details, may have witnessed the accident, may have seen a red sedan speeding at the time and made note of it … missing a right mirror, I would appreciate any information,” Lauria wrote to The Islander.

Lauria, in his statement to the newspaper, described himself as a “family man” who was born in Argentina, became a U.S. citizen many years ago and built his life “around the world of information technology.”

He and his family chose Anna Maria Island as a place to enjoy “a little sunshine on these gray COVID-19 days.”

Lauria had taken in a sunset May 21 and was walking home, along the right shoulder of southbound North Bay Boulevard when he was struck by a vehicle.

The FHP said there were no skid marks found.

“I am instantly in the air, not knowing how I am going to land, and, when I do, I am looking at the sky, feeling numb,” he said.

He felt pain — “a lot of it.”

And he could see the bone protruding from the skin near his elbow.

“A right, side mirror is on the ground on the road, a few steps from me,” he continued. “The car that hit me is still going, it is not stopping.”

Lauria stood and waved with his uninjured arm at a passing motorist, who kept going, and then a second motorist and a third.

“They just pass next to me without even paying attention,” he said of the six people traveling in a golf cart.

The driver in a fourth vehicle stopped to assist and call first responders, including law enforcement and paramedics.

Lauria said he spent five days recovering at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton from “multiple concussions, a big hematoma, an open fracture and a baseball-sized clot.”

As of June 1, he was back at home in Anna Maria but still recovering — from his physical injuries, being a victim of a crime and being ignored by the roadside.

The FHP report said the “case is closed due to lack of information” but it “will be reopened if further leads arise.”

How to help

Gustavo Lauria can be reached by email at lauriagustavo@gmail.com.

Anna Maria anticipates soft opening for city pier in June

thumb image
Work continues May 21 on the new Anna Maria City Pier, 101 Bay Blvd., as construction odds-and-ends are wrapped up. The city now plans to open the pier in June. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

Ready? Set? Almost.

Don’t load up the fishing gear just yet.

“They are putting the finishing touches on the pier,” Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy told The Islander May 22. “It’s just about done.”

The mayor said he planned to prepare a proposal for a soft opening for the new Anna Maria City Pier, 101 Bay Blvd., including a date, to be presented to the city commission at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 28.

The meeting will be held by teleconference. People can phone in for the meeting by following instructions in the meeting agenda posted to the city website at cityofannamaria.com.

Murphy said posts along the pier are being prepped for walkway lighting and workers are finishing the bathrooms.

Also, air conditioning and security cameras were installed along with benches and a new sign.

Fish cleaning stations were on order and cable was to be pulled and a modem installed by the end of the month, according to Murphy.

He also said signs will be placed to remind people to social distance.

Previously, the mayor said the city hopes to have the restaurant and bait shop open in late 2020 or early 2021.

The city commission voted May 14 to approve the bid from the Ugly Grouper restaurant, 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, allowing the mayor to negotiate a lease for the restaurant at the T-end of the pier.

The new pier was built to replace the old pier, which opened in 1911 but was closed after it was damaged by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

Construction started in 2018.

Island businesses charge up for ‘reopening’

thumb image
A family crosses Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach May 16 after Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed reopening restaurants and retail stores within his phase 1 orders.
Doug Bidwell plays music May 16 for people at the dockside dining area at the Bridge Tender Inn & Dockside Bar, 135 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach.
A waiter serves a couple May 16 on the outdoor deck at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced May 15 that the state would enter “full phase 1” of reopening at half capacity for restaurants, retailers, museums, libraries, fitness centers and other operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The American people never signed up for a perpetual shelter in place,” DeSantis said in a televised news conference.

The phase 1 reopening was set for May 18, as The Islander went to press.

After a monthlong closure of nonessential businesses and tight limits on essential operations, restaurants opened dining rooms and retailers opened shops to 25% capacity May 4, in partial implementation of phase 1.

Beginning May 18, restaurants were allowed double capacity with social distancing and encouragement to utilize outdoor seating.

Barbershops, hair and nail salons were allowed to reopen May 11, but only 10 people are allowed in a business and they must maintain social distancing.

Fitness centers, allowed to open May 18, must adhere to social distancing guidelines, as well as requirements for sanitization.

“Bar areas” in restaurants were to remain closed, and owners were encouraged to adopt a reservation-only business model or call-ahead seating to manage interior spaces. Bars and nightclubs remained closed.

DeSantis, during a news conference May 15, reviewed what’s ahead with phase 2, including reopening schools and bars, allowing gatherings of up to 50 people while adhering to social distancing guidelines and increasing restaurant capacity.

So with beaches and businesses opening, visitors were returning to Anna Maria Island, resulting in foot traffic on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, Pine Avenue in Anna Maria and the shopping centers in Holmes Beach, including heavy vehicle traffic on the bridges and Gulf Drive and some parking problems.

Holmes Beach received complaints that people were parking at businesses and shopping centers to go to the beach, “and some store owners resorted to towing vehicles,” Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth wrote May 14 in an email to The Islander.

But Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer told The Islander May 15 that, besides the beach and some issues with parking, there wasn’t much excessive activity.

“We had a lot of people here on Saturday and Sunday,” Tokajer said. “But we were not overrun. We still had social distancing.”

In Anna Maria, Mayor Dan Murphy said May 9 “was one of unprecedented traffic and parking issues” due to an influx of visitors.

“The Saturday prior to Mother’s Day was an absolutely colossal day — for lack of a better word — for traffic, congestion and parking,” Murphy told city commissioners May 14. “We issued a record number of parking tickets that day.”

“It reminded me of the old days: Helter-skelter within the city,” he continued.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said May 12 that May 9-10 was “extremely busy.”

“Social distancing was tough,” the mayor said. “A lot of people that were asked to (practice social distancing) didn’t really care, which was sad to hear.”

There were incidents of verbal abuse of police officers as they carried out their duties — issuing tickets or requesting social distancing compliance, according to Chappie. “It wasn’t pretty.”

Holmes Beach resident Mike Roaldi emailed The Islander May 13 and said Bridge Street May 9 looked “like Mardi Gras,” with crowds and people practicing “zero social distancing” and wearing “virtually no masks.”

“My point is that there was no sense whatsoever that there was any kind of health crisis,” Roaldi added. “Nothing was any different than it would have been prior to the lockdown.”

His wife, Carol Roaldi, said despite the hustle and bustle, Bridge Street businesses abided by capacity limits, social distancing and employees wore face coverings.

“While the atmosphere was fun, I felt the merchants were very responsible,” she said.

Officials on AMI had no issues with businesses on capacity or social distancing.

The Roaldis did not oppose the business activity on Bridge Street but instead challenged the continued limits on short-term vacation rentals, which could be changing.

“If we can go to restaurants and walk around outside, why would we not be allowed to stay in a vacation rental?” Carol Roaldi said. “Let’s be fair across the board.”


Vacation rental restrictions

The state, as of May 18, continued to prohibit short-term vacation rental advertising and new check-ins of fewer than 30 days.

The island cities have been issuing citations since late March to alleged offenders and reporting property owners and management companies to the state.

Murphy said law and code enforcement officers investigated 198 complaints of suspected vacation rental activity and identified 38 violations.

Three Anna Maria violators refused to comply with the state order and were given notices to appear in court for second-degree misdemeanors. The properties also were reported to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

At press time, the city was investigating another 10 complaints while another investigation, responding to a house party May 10 in the 100 block of North Bay Boulevard, resulted in the discovery of drugs and guns.

A group of people with open containers of alcohol bound for the party attracted law enforcement attention. At the property, where the owner later said his son had a party that got out of hand, deputies said there were at least 10 parked cars.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report indicated several people jumped out of windows into a canal to flee the deputies, who found two guns, as well as 8 pounds of marijuana and 40 ecstasy pills.

No arrests were made.

In Holmes Beach, Titsworth said the city cited “a few more” rentals the week ending May 17, bringing the city’s violations to “about 10-15.”

One alleged violation involved a lodger who claimed an exemption because he was the owner’s nephew.

Tokajer consulted with the governor’s general council, which confirmed only the owner or an immediate family member were allowed in vacation rentals before the city gave the lodger a notice to appear in court and the property was reported to the DBPR.

Tokajer has supported the restriction on vacation rentals but also said he believes it should have applied to hotels, motels, inns and resorts.

Chappie did not respond to a May 14 email from The Islander asking about vacation rental violations.

The situation with rentals could change soon, as “full phase 1” allows county governments to submit a request with a safety plan to the DBPR to allow short-term vacation rentals.

Meeting early May 18, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council voted to recommend that the county submit a plan that follows public health guidelines to the DBPR to allow short-term rentals.

The county commission would need to approve the recommendation.

First choice for Anna Maria pier drops out

thumb image
United Electric continues installation work May 8 on the new Anna Maria City Pier. The city anticipated completion in mid-May. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

They had a winner.

And they had confliction.

Restaurateur Sean Murphy’s bid to operate the restaurant and bait shop on the new city pier was selected May 6 by Anna Maria city commissioners, but following a motion to rescind the bid approval, Murphy withdrew his bid May 10.

During the May 6 teleconference commission meeting, commissioners voted 4-1 to proceed with negotiations to lease the restaurant and bait shop on the city pier with Sean Murphy.

Commission Chair Carol Carter voted “nay.”

However, Mayor Dan Murphy, on May 8, set the agenda for a special meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 14, to include a request from Commissioner Amy Tripp to rescind the May 6 bid approval.

Tripp declined to comment to The Islander May 8 due to possible conflicts with Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws.

Since Sean Murphy, owner/operator of Beach Bistro, Doctor’s Office and Eat Here, all in Holmes Beach, withdrew his bid, the commission will now face options May 14 on authorizing the mayor to start lease negotiations with the only other bidder — Mike Ross, co-owner of the Ugly Grouper restaurant in Holmes Beach — or entering a new proposal process.

Sean Murphy and Mayor Dan Murphy are unrelated.

The public can download an agenda for the teleconfernce with directions for attending from the city website, cityofannamaria.com.


Proposal withdrawal

In a May 10 text conversation with the mayor, Sean Murphy stated due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, “the hospitality industry has been turned on its head.”

He continued, “I would recommend to you and the commission that you begin the RFP process over again when potential applicants have adjusted to the new environment and can make better decisions. I am certain that you will receive more and better proposals than you have now. I am withdrawing my proposal and encouraging you and the commission to begin again.”

In response, the mayor thanked Sean Murphy for bidding, said he would pass the withdrawal request to the commissioners and noted the message as confirmation of a withdrawal for the bid.



When lease negotiations with Mario Schoenfelder, pier tenant since 2000, fell through in January, the city issued a request for proposals for the restaurant and bait shop on the T-end of the pier.

Schoenfelder’s lease expires at the end of December, which is about the time the city anticipates a new tenant could open the restaurant and bait shop.

Sean Murphy and Ross were the only two who submitted proposals to operate the pier facilities and they both participated in the May 6 teleconference call.

According to the materials provided by the city, commissioners were asked to evaluate the bids based on six criteria:

  • Annual base rent;
  • Optional alternative rent formula based on percentage;
  • Local presence;
  • Corporate experience;
  • Past performance;
  • Certifiable information about financial ability to perform.

The mayor and consultant Doug Sullivan, former general manager of the Sandbar restaurant, analyzed the bids and provided commissioners with their analyses.

The criteria were placed in order of importance, with annual base rent being the most important factor, according to the mayor.


Lease terms

Sean Murphy’s bid included $1,840,000 a year over a 10-year lease, including the bait shop. The Ugly Grouper’s bid was $2,376,000 for the same time period — 28.6% more revenue than Murphy’s offer.

For an alternative rent formula, Murphy offered a flat rent of $168,000 per year or 5% net of sales.

The Ugly Grouper offered $144,000 per year and 2% of net sales.

The mayor said, according to Sullivan’s analysis, the pier revenue likely would be $3 million-$4 million a year, with a “sweet spot of $3.5 million.”

Regarding local presence, the mayor and commissioners agreed both bidders have contributed equally to the island community.

However, on the categories of corporate experience and past performance, the mayor and commissioners said Sean Murphy had an edge, with high ZAGAT Survey ratings and accolades from Florida Trend magazine and the James Beard Foundation, compared with positive social media reviews for the Ugly Grouper.

On financial ability to perform, Mayor Murphy said he did not ask for a credit report, because it was not necessary for the bid phase.

He said Sean Murphy’s proposal made commitments of $400,000 from a trust, $300,000 in commercial financing, a liquor license valued at $360,000 and fixtures and equipment to outfit the restaurant based on the city estimate of $250,000.

The Ugly Grouper stated it has a $2 million line of credit.


Pier construction

At a Feb. 26 pre-bid meeting, the mayor estimated the size of the covered lease space, including the bait shop and breezeway, at about 4,600 square feet, with usable interior space at 3,712.5 square feet.

The restaurant could seat about 150 people, depending on the configuration, he said.

The mayor said the building is an “empty shell,” with the plumbing and electric roughed in, and the successful bidder will be responsible for the buildout.

The mayor told The Islander May 8 that the primary items remaining on the city’s punch list are completion are the bathrooms, walkway lighting and air conditioning for the bathrooms and bait shop, which are set to be completed by May 15, barring days off for inclement weather.

The new pier was built to replace the pier that opened in 1911 but was closed after damages from Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

Demolition then occurred and construction on the new pier started in 2018.

Although construction nearly was complete as of May 8, the city planned to wait to open the pier to fishing and sightseeing until officials determine the novel coronavirus impact has been significantly decreased in Manatee County.

City officials hope to have the restaurant and bait shop open in late 2020 or early 2021.

John Lerro: The 36th victim of the Skyway Bridge disaster

thumb image
‘The bridge is down. Call all emergency equipment onto the Skyway Bridge. The Skyway Bridge is down. This is a major emergency situation. Stop the traffic on that Skyway Bridge.’ -— Capt. John Lerro, Summit Venture pilot, distress call, May 9, 1980. Islander File Photo: Paul Roat
Attorney Steve Yerrid sits with John Lerro during the 1980 trial following the Sunshine Skyway disaster. Lerro was piloting the Summit Venture when it hit the bridge, resulting in 35 deaths. Yerrid represented Lerro in the 1980 trial. Islander Photo: Courtesy Steve Yerrid

In Tampa Bay history, his name will forever be associated with May 9, 1980, and that morning’s disaster.

John Lerro was piloting the empty cargo freighter that brought down a section of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge 40 years ago May 9, plunging 35 people to their death.

Today, as then, some people see Lerro as culpable.

But not Tampa trial lawyer Steve Yerrid, who represented Lerro in a 1980 trial and, through that process, became his friend.

“We became like brothers,” Yerrid told The Islander April 29. “He always wished he could have done more to change the outcome.”

Yerrid said survivor’s guilt took Lerro’s soul.

“He became the scapegoat,” the attorney said of Lerro, who died in 2002 of multiple sclerosis.

The bridge disaster is one of Tampa Bay’s most storied events.

Lerro, then 37, was piloting the 609-foot long Summit Venture eastbound in Tampa Bay toward the Port of Tampa when a squall blew in from the Gulf of Mexico, enshrouding the bridge.

Lerro could not see the bridge less than a mile away.

He couldn’t even see the freighter’s bow.

So he did not know he was 800 feet to the right-center of the shipping channel, which would have taken the ship safely under the spans.

As Lerro lost sight of the bridge, he also was struggling to keep control of the 35,000-ton ship in the fast-moving squall, according to The Islander’s archives.

Making matters worse, the ship was empty and riding about 35 feet higher than it would be loaded in the near-hurricane force winds.

The rain cleared moments before impact, but Lerro was unable to stop or steer the vessel clear of the bridge.

By the time he ordered a hard turn and the anchor dropped, it was too late.

One witness crossing the bridge said the impact felt like an earthquake.

At impact, the bridge shuddered. The cantilever construction flexed and a quarter-mile of the southbound roadway separated and fell.

As the span crumbled, six cars and a Greyhound bus drove off the broken bridge into the bay. A pickup truck landed on the bow of the freighter before falling into the waterway. The driver survived.

The first mayday call went out at 7:34 a.m. from the Summit Venture, according to skyway.com.

“Mayday! Coast Guard! Mayday! Bridge crossing is down!” Lerro yelled into the radio.


Lerro, Yerrid entangled for life

Yerrid told The Islander he was hired by the Pilots Association to defend Lerro, who was scheduled for promotion to full pilot just two days after the Sunshine Skyway disaster changed his course and history.

Although many said the case against Lerro could not be won, Yerrid went forward.

He defended charges of blame against Lerro from Florida state officials and in federal hearings by the National Transportation Board, which ruled 3-2 that Lerro was partly responsible but other factors, including the storm, had contributed to the accident.

“I was 30 years old and ready to take on anything then,” Yerrid said of the case.

Judge Chris Bentley, chief judge for the state of Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, ruled Dec. 24, 1980, that Lerro did not act negligently and did act reasonably under the circumstances.

Bentley declared the Sunshine Skyway Bridge disaster “an act of God.” He also reinstated Lerro’s suspended pilot license, which had been stripped away after the accident.

Lerro, however, soon found himself suffering from MS and stopped piloting.

Instead, he spent his time answering crisis phone lines and helping others, according to Yerrid.

“I told John it was all about fairness, justice and the truth,” Yerrid said. “But sometimes, it just didn’t seem like he was in there.”

“We talked a lot late at night,” Yerrid added. “He was a good man in the wrong place at the wrong time.”


The Skyway today

The first Skyway Bridge opened in 1954 with two lanes of north-south traffic, replacing the Bee Line ferry between Manatee and Pinellas counties.

In 1971, a twin parallel span opened, carrying southbound traffic while the original span carried northbound traffic.

After the disaster, a taller, cable-stayed bridge was constructed. It opened in 1987 at a cost of $224 million with a clearance of 175 feet and a channel 1,200 feet wide — 400 feet wider than the channel at the time of the disaster.

“John definitely was the 36th victim of the disaster,” Yerrid said. “He dealt with it the entire rest of his life.”


More ‘Skyway’

Attorney Steve Yerrid and Frankie VanDeBoe were involved in making the documentary, “The Sunshine Skyway Bridge Disaster,” now on Amazon Prime.

Search Sunshine Skyway on The Islander website, islander.org, for photos from former Islander staff, and the chilling mayday call that went out on the airwaves.

Flash of green?

thumb image
Flash of green? Not so much, but a green underwater dock light at Richard Stevens’ house is reflected on his boat as lightning illuminates the night sky April 24. The view, looking northeast from Seaside Gardens in Holmes Beach, was caught by his security camera. The April showers — an exhibition of the power of Mother Nature, brought rain, thunder and lightning — some 4 inches of much-needed rain — to the island and drought-stricken Manatee County. Stevens, who spends part of the year in Connecticut, said he’s waiting out the virus “in paradise” on AMI.

Anna Maria City Pier on cusp of completion, to remain closed

thumb image
Anna Maria public works employees clean up the T-end April 17 at the new Anna Maria City Pier, 101 Bay Blvd. The pier is nearly complete, but will remain closed until the spread of COVID-19 is controlled in Manatee County or the state safer-at-home order is lifted. Islander Photo: Courtesy Anna Maria
Wind and waves buffet the new Anna Maria City Pier April 16. The construction is nearing completion, but the pier, 101 Bay Blvd., will not open for fishing or sightseeing until the safer-at-home order for COVID-19 is lifted. Islander Photos: Chris-Ann Allen
A pavilion at the Anna Maria City Pier, 101 Bay Blvd., holds construction materials April 13.

It could be finished by the end of April.

But safety must come first.

The new Anna Maria City Pier, 101 Bay Blvd., will not open to the public while the spread of COVID-19 remains a threat.

The original pier opened in 1911 but was closed after it was damaged by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

The city demolished the old pier in 2018 and commenced construction on the new pier.

The commission reached consensus April 9 to withhold opening the pier until social distancing guidelines are lifted.

The utility cables were connected the week of April 13, according to Mayor Dan Murphy.

He also said the fire marshal passed the fire suppression inspection, which allows the buildout to go forward on the bathrooms on the T-end. The completion should be by April 28.

Construction on walkway and exterior lighting commenced the week of April 20 with completion in a week, Murphy said.

“The only item delayed is permanent U.S. Coast Guard-required lighting on the T-end held up by the manufacturer, but in the meantime, temporary lights were installed,” Murphy said April 17, adding that permanent lighting fixtures should be in place by April 29.

Other work planned for the end of April included the installation of security system wiring and cameras, benches and fish cleaning stations.

Bids to operate the restaurant and bait shop at the pier’s T-end were opened April 8.

The city received bids from the Ugly Grouper, 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, and Sean Murphy, owner of three restaurants, Beach Bistro, Eat Here and the Doctor’s Office, all in Holmes Beach.

The city had 30 days to review the bids, but plans call for discussion at the city teleconference meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 23.

For the meeting agenda and teleconference instructions, visit the city of Anna Maria website at cityofannamaria.com.

Beach parking crackdown, AMI enforcement

thumb image
Holmes Beach staff from public works and code enforcement post a banner April 10 on East Bay Drive at Manatee Avenue warning motorists that illegally parked vehicles will be towed. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
A graphic shows signage placed April 10 at beach accesses in Holmes Beach. Beach access, street and right of way parking in the city remain closed until further notice. Islander Photo: Courtesy HBPD

Restrictions tightened over the past week in Holmes Beach as positive COVID-19 numbers continued to rise in Manatee County.

Law enforcement was tasked with ensuring people complied with state and local orders.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer circulated a news release April 9 stating that due to states of emergency declared by the city, county and state, Holmes Beach was immediately halting parking at beach accesses and on streets and rights of way.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said April 9 that the city was following the same restrictions.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said April 9 during a teleconferenced city commission meeting that he was discussing plans with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that provides law enforcement in Anna Maria.

Manatee County and municipal officials ordered Anna Maria Island beaches closed to the general public as of March 20, but still allowed some parking at beach accesses and people were allowed to visit the beach — as long as they could legally get to the shore.

Tokajer said walking on the beach still would be permitted the week beginning April 13. He said the concern that prompted the parking closure was people posting to social media that they were planning to violate the governor’s social distancing order, pay the $50 fine and gather at the beach the weekend of April 11 — during the Easter holiday.

“No parking” signs were posted throughout the city April 10 and Tokajer said vehicles would be towed at the owners’ expense.

He reported April 13 that seven cars were towed over the weekend and 69 parking citations were issued. The towed cars were parked at Kingfish Boat Ramp and, when owners called the HBPD,  an officer transported the owner to an ATM, if needed, to pay the fine, then to the boat ramp to collect their car. “We wanted to make it as painless as we could,” he said.

We’re thinking that this weekend was just the beginning of it,” he said April 9. “It appears that people are getting understandably frustrated with the lack of things to do and we don’t want them to think it’s OK to violate city and state orders because they’re bored.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order April 1 for people to stay at home for 30 days, maintain social distancing guidelines of 6 feet apart and congregate in groups of no more than 10 people.

Manatee County businesses not considered “essential” were ordered to close through the end of April.

Meanwhile, county commissioners instituted the curfew prohibiting nonessential travel 11 p.m.-5 a.m. seven days a week.

The curfew was extended April 10 for another week, but with an amendment that removed allowing citations for gatherings on private property.

The governor also ordered a halt to vacation rentals for stays of less than 30 days until April 11 and the county voted April 10 to ask the governor for an extension.

DeSantis extended the rental order to April 30 the same day.

Randy Warren, Manatee County sheriff’s public information officer, wrote in an April 9 email to The Islander that the MCSO had success with people following the new rules.

“Deputies are seeking voluntary compliance. We will continue to educate people,” Warren wrote. “That approach appears to be working.”

Governor issues statewide order to stay home

thumb image
Sign of the times A sign posted April 1 at the gateway to the city of Anna Maria annouces the halt on vacation rental checkins. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

​Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis April 1 issued a “safer at home” order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

​The order — to take effect at 12:01 a.m. April 3 and expire April 30 — says “all persons in Florida shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct activities.”

​Such services are listed in U.S. Department of Homeland Security guidance and prior executive orders issued by the governor to slow the spread of COVID-19 and include medical care, public safety, law enforcement, utilities, transportation, public works, communications and information technology, critical manufacturing, financial, certain community-based and government operations and food and agriculture.

​The order said businesses or organizations “are “encouraged to provide delivery, carry-out or curbside service outside of the business or organization, of orders placed online or via telephone” to the greatest extent practicable.

​Essential activities include attending religious services, participating in recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines, taking care of pets and caring or otherwise assisting a loved one or friend.

​Social gatherings in public spaces are not essential activities, according to the order.

​In prior orders, the governor has said people should work remotely if they can, avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. He has said people who come to Florida should quarantine for 14 days or the duration of their trip, whichever is shorter, and March 27 he suspended new vacation rentals for 14 days.