Source: | Author: President Daniel J. Stermer | Date: March 26, 2020

The rippling effects of COVID-19 touch nearly every aspect of society; threatening economic stability and public health at home and abroad. With the latest number of reported cases in Broward County topping 500, we have the unfortunate distinction of being second in the state for the number of COVID-19 cases.

This distinction, coupled with advisement from state health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has understandably caused our municipalities to act swiftly and take the necessary steps in their own communities to help slow community spread of the disease in Broward. While our state and county have taken actions, I must issue a special thank you to our local first responders, municipal leaders, and staff for the outstanding work they have done and continue to do to fill in gaps at the city level.

The county-wide closures and restrictions of public spaces, along with Emergency Order 20-01 which closes non-essential businesses, have been balanced with a directed focus by municipalities to support their residents and meet needs unique to their communities. Like many state and county officials, municipal leaders and staff have worked tirelessly, often at personal risk, to provide crucial services and information. Three areas where I have specifically seen our cities excel are in dedication to public safety, support for fiscal needs of our communities, and outreach to Broward County’s most vulnerable. I would like to take a moment to highlight each of these and to thank city leaders and staff for their work.

1. From the start of the outbreak, it was clear that public safety and health were severely threatened. Our first responders and health professionals are, after all, not immune to COVID-19. Almost as soon as the first cases were identified in Broward, our city leaders began working with state and county officials to ensure that public safety and health would be protected.

Several of our cities held public meetings where they shared important CDC guidelines and took the important step of declaring state of emergencies. Additionally, several of our municipalities began placing limits on restaurants, public spaces, and businesses well before state and county mandates were passed down. This decisive response and early intervention on the part of municipal leadership is to be commended.

2. After public health, one of the clearest threats to our cities has been the negative impact on our local economies. While done for the public good, the closing of businesses has led to unemployment for many and has been felt by businesses big and small. Almost immediately city leaders have stepped in, with many municipalities waiving fines and services fees. Many commissions have also banned utility shut-offs for citizens who will experience financial hardships.

Leaders have also recognized that long after the threat to public health is gone, it will take time for our local economies to rebound.  Many have begun the dissemination of business damage assessment surveys and are sharing links to webinars that provide tips on surviving economic crises. Our hope is that these learning materials will speed up economic recovery for our cities after the battle against COVID-19 has been won.

3. Finally, I have been exceedingly impressed by continuing efforts to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We know that senior citizens and individuals living with pre-existing conditions are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. Many local markets and grocers have announced special shopping hours for at-risk populations so that they can shop in clean and contained environments. To further this effort, cities have begun to compile lists for individuals who need such accommodations and to issue guidance for other businesses to protect high-risk populations.

COVID-19 is indeed a crisis unlike any we have faced. I am continually awed by how Broward’s city leaders unite and, at every turn, rise to meet challenges with unwavering dedication to their communities and residents. While the ultimate cost of this outbreak has yet to be seen, the response of Broward County’s municipalities has reassured me that, together, we will weather this storm.

As always the Broward League of Cities stands ready to assist. I encourage all Broward residents to visit the Broward League of Cities’ website for additional COVID-19 information, and to visit their home cities’ websites for local updates and resources. Together we will come out of this stronger than before as one united Broward.

Be safe – be healthy – be smart.

Weston Mayor Daniel J. Stermer is president of the Broward League of Cities