This afternoon, I signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in the city of Fort Lauderdale in response to the growing nationwide coronavirus pandemic.
It is extremely important that we act now as a community to stem the spread of this dangerous virus. We must be prepared to change our way of life for a while in order to combat and control this outbreak.
We continue to see the number of cases rise locally and throughout the world. There are now more than 125,000 confirmed cases of the virus globally with close to 7,000 new cases reported in the last 24 hours. We have at least 11 cases of coronavirus in the greater Fort Lauderdale area with an unknown number of people awaiting testing or test results.
Health experts are predicting the widespread transmission of the virus in the United States without immediate, emergency action, and there is no current vaccine to cure or combat the illness.
I want to emphasize that this is not a time to panic, nor is it a time to sit idly by. This is a time for clear and decisive action. It is a time for us to come together as a community and follow the advice of health experts.
At my direction, the city is implementing guidelines laid out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to limit the spread of the disease. This strategy is aimed at reducing close contact and public gatherings as much as possible. We are also acting in concert with Gov. DeSantis’ recent decision to declare a public health emergency in the state.
Under the declaration, the city is prohibiting all organized public gatherings of more than 250 people. This includes all city events, all approved special events, all city recreational programs and all organized sports leagues. We also are canceling upcoming meetings of the City Commission, all city boards and committees, all special magistrate hearings and all Code Enforcement Board hearings.
City management and my office have been in close consultation with our partners in the community. They share our concerns, and I appreciate everyone working together on behalf of the public's health.
As a result of these restrictions, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts has suspended all performances effective immediately. The St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival and the inaugural game of the Inter Miami soccer game were scheduled to occur this weekend and have been canceled. Pride of the Americas, which was set for April 21-26, is being re-scheduled.
The NSU Art Museum informs us that they will remain open with normal operating hours for visitors, but that they will postpone all large events through April 17 including Starry Night First Thursday. The Museum of Discovery and Science also will also remain open, but is cancelling its food & wine event scheduled for tonight.
Please note that this order does not impact Broward County government, the Broward County School District, the North Broward Hospital District or agencies of the state and federal governments. They are independent of the city and in charge of their own operations.
Chief Judge Jack Tuter of the 17th Judicial Circuit asks that I pass along the following: All jury obligations are suspended for the next two weeks -- March 16-20 and March 23-27. All other court operations are continuing as normal. A decision will be made later regarding future juror responsibilities. For updates, Judge Tuter asks that people contact the jury room hotline at 954-831-7051.
In addition to the steps being taken regarding public gatherings, I am also ordering that every public place, including businesses, restaurants, bars and retail establishments, have alcohol-based hand sanitizer at every entrance for the use of patrons and employees. The hand sanitizer should be used upon every entry and exit for each patron and employee. These rules are to be strictly enforced.
This declaration has gone into immediate effect and covers the next 30 days – through April 12. We will continue to assess the situation and make changes as necessary.
Again, we are implementing these proactive measures for the protection of our community, our visitors, and our employees to help slow the spread of the virus and ensure that
we do not overwhelm our healthcare system.