CLEARWATER, Fla. (July 21, 2020) – With demand for COVID-19 testing continuing to grow, Polk County government and BayCare are coming together to establish a drive-thru test collection site at the Gil Jones Center, 3425 Lake Alfred Road, Winter Haven.
Service for the public will begin on Wednesday, July 22. The site will operate Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. The drive-thru site will use the back, or west side, of the parking lot.
“We so appreciate that Polk County is supporting us to serve the community,” said Jim Cote, senior vice president for BayCare Ambulatory Services. “From the very beginning of this pandemic, we’ve worked to expand public access to testing so that individuals can confirm if they are COVID-19 positive and need to isolate to prevent the spread of the virus.
Patients are encouraged to bring a referral from a medical provider and those who do not will be screened based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Testing is offered to all ages.
Testing will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis with a daily cap based on supplies. Due to the continued challenges with COVID-19 testing supplies, BayCare will regularly evaluate supply lines and adjust operations as needed.
Polk County is underwriting the effort and providing public safety support for the site while BayCare Health System will operate the service. BayCare owns the Gil Jones Center and rents space to Polk County for Clerk of Courts services and to New Beginnings High School.
Since March, BayCare has been a leader in West Central Florida in providing public access to testing. The site at Gil Jones Center is in addition to the drive-thru testing site BayCare offers at Bartow Regional Medical Center. BayCare has also partnered with governments in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties to establish drive-thru sites as well as some locations wholly operated by BayCare.
For a full list of BayCare drive-thru testing sites and their hours of operation, go to BayCare.org/coronavirus.
Lakeland, FL— Mark your calendars! SPCA Florida has partnered with Polk County Animal Control and the Humane Society of Polk County for a Tri- Mega Adoption Event coming up Saturday, July 18th, from 10:00am-4:00pm. All three locations will offer animals at discounted prices. Three Hundred Fifty+ wonderful furry companions will be looking for their forever home – big dogs, small dogs, senior pets, adult cats, puppies and lots of kittens.
The adoption fee is just $20.00! All animals will be spayed/neutered, microchipped, and up to date on
vaccinations. SPCA Florida has partnered with Polk County Animal Control and Humane Society of Polk County to bring Polk County’s homeless animals together for this event. Animals will be available for adoption at each shelter.
Polk County Public Schools will delay the start of the 2020-21 school year at least until Aug. 24 due to the rising transmission of COVID-19 cases in the community.
Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said she remains in constant contact with the Florida Department of Health in Polk County, and it is necessary to delay the start of the school year because it isn’t safe to physically reopen schools at this time. The school year was scheduled to begin on Aug. 10. “We are trending upward with the rise of COVID-19 cases, not only in the state but right here in Polk County,” Byrd said. “At this time, I do not feel it is safe to physically reopen schools on Aug. 10. We need to delay the opening of school at least until Aug. 24. We will continue to monitor the situation with health officials and, if the spread of the virus remains high, we can further delay the physical reopening of our brick-and-mortar schools if necessary.” Teachers will begin undertaking some professional development on Aug. 17.
The School Board will vote at tonight’s meeting to adjust the school year calendar accordingly.
For the upcoming school year, Polk County Public Schools is planning to offer three distinct learning formats, and giving families the ability to choose the one that best meets their needs.
Parents must register their children for one of these three learning options. The deadline to make a selection is July 27.
To find out more about the three learning options and complete the online registration, visit polkschoolsfl.com/reopening
Here is an overview of our three learning options for the 2020-21 school year:
- Campus Learning — Students return to campus and interact in person with teachers and classmates. Various health and safety protocols will be put into place. Students will receive standards-based instruction from a certified teacher. There will be structured class times. Transportation and meals will be provided.
- Campus eSchool — Students remain enrolled in their zoned, choice, or magnet school of acceptance, but they participate in online learning. Students will be expected to log in at a certain time, and there will be specified times for the various subjects, such as math, science and language arts. Parents serve as learning coaches and monitor students on completing their assignments. For planning purposes, we are asking parents to make a quarterly commitment to eSchool, if they determine this is the learning format that is best for them and their child.
- Polk Virtual School — Students enroll in PCPS’ longstanding virtual school program with online lessons taught by PCPS teachers. Students work at their own pace and can set their own schedule. Time management and self-motivation are essential. Parents serve as learning coaches and monitor students on completing their assignments. For planning purposes, we are asking that families who select Polk Virtual School to make a semester-long commitment.
Last evening the City Commission unanimously passed the emergency ordinance requiring face coverings indoors in businesses in the City limits. You can read the ordinance below. I spoke with the City and businesses are required to post signage on their entry door, however, they are not requiring specific signage i.e. you can make it yourself. Knowing you all are very busy I did put together a few options that you can download and print. If you need something more specific and don't have the capability to make or print it yourself, please let me know.
Download signage at the following links:
Simple Masks Required Per City Ordinance Color 8.5 x 11
Simple Masks Required Per City Ordinance Black and White 8.5 x 11
Detailed Mask Required Per City Ordinance Color 8.5 x 14
Detailed Mask Required Per City Ordinance Black and White 8.5 x 14
Restaurant Masks Required Per City Ordinance Color 8.5 x 11
Restaurant Masks Required Per City Ordinance Black & White 8.5 x 11
If you prefer to print and post the entire ordinance you can download it here.
Emergency Ordinance Language (nothing changed from when I sent to you yesterday):
SECTION 2. Definitions.
SECTION 3. Face Coverings Required
SECTION 4. Exceptions
Nothing herein shall require the wearing of face coverings by the following persons:Persons under the age of eight (8) years old;
SECTION 5. Enforcement and Penalties
It is the intent of the City Commission to seek voluntary compliance with the provisions contained herein and to educate and warn of the dangers of non-compliance. Owners of businesses within the City of Winter Haven, Florida will be considered in compliance with the requirements of this Emergency Ordinance if they take four steps. Those include:
However, in the event voluntary compliance is not achieved, then violation of this Emergency Ordinance, and any order issued pursuant hereto, shall be subject to a fine not exceeding the sum of One Hundred Fifty Dollars ($150.00) pursuant to Section 1-13 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Winter Haven, Florida, or as otherwise provided by law. Notwithstanding any provision of Section 1-13 of the City Code to the contrary, a violation of this Emergency Ordinance, and any order issued pursuant hereto, shall only be subject to a fine of One Hundred Fifty Dollars ($150.00), and those provisions of Section 1-13 of the City Code providing for fines in excess of One Hundred Fifty Dollars ($150.00) or providing for a term of imprisonment shall not be applicable to violations of this Emergency Ordinance or orders issued pursuant hereto.
SECTION 6. Applicability
Any provision of this Emergency Ordinance that conflicts with any State or Federal law or constitutional provision, or conflicts with or is superseded by a current or subsequently issued executive order of the Governor or other authority, shall be deemed inapplicable and deemed severable from this Emergency Ordinance, with the remainder of this Emergency Ordinance remaining in full force and effect. This Emergency Ordinance applies within the jurisdictional limits of the City of Winter Haven, Florida.
SECTION 7. Effective Date; Sunset Provision.
This Emergency Ordinance shall become effective on July 14, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. and shall expire at 5:00 p.m. on August 14, 2020 unless rescinded and/or extended by further action of the City Commission.
INTRODUCED AND PASSED by the City Commission of the City of Winter Haven, Florida, in regular session this 13th day of July, 2020.
All my best -
Katie Worthington Decker
*Update - due to dwindling supply, please contact the Chamber directly at 863-293-2138 to inquire about remaining availability
In partnership with Polk County Government, the Winter Haven Chamber has a supply of disposable masks available for pickup for local businesses. We are allocating up to 50 masks per business while supplies last. Please fill out the form below to reserve your masks and schedule a pickup time.
To note, we are not distributing masks for individuals. If you are seeking masks for you as an individual or your family, please visit one of the individual distribution sites facilitated by the city or the county governments. We are not distributing to the general public. Our supply is intended for businesses only.
***When you hit submit on the form below the confirmation that it has been received pops back up in this same window.
Pickup is at the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce located at 401 Avenue B, NW, Winter Haven, FL, 33881. We will do this as drive thru distribution. Please enter the semi-circle drive on the 5th Street side of the building (see map below). Please remain in your vehicles upon arriving.
Below is the text for the Emergency Ordinance adopted at the Commission Meeting on Monday, July 13.
EMERGENCY ORDINANCE NO. O-20-28
AN EMERGENCY ORDINANCE OF THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF WINTER HAVEN, FLORIDA RELATING TO PUBLIC HEALTH; REQUIRING PERSONS THAT LIVE, WORK, VISIT OR DO BUSINESS IN THE CITY OF WINTER HAVEN, FLORIDA, TO WEAR FACE COVERINGS IN CERTAIN PUBLIC PLACES TO STOP OR SLOW THE SPREAD OF NOVEL CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID-19); PROVIDING FOR EXCEPTIONS; ESTABLISHING ENFORCEMENT AND PENALTY PROVISIONS FOR VIOLATIONS; MAKING FINDINGS; PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.
WHEREAS, Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a severe acute respiratory illness that can spread among humans through respiratory transmission and presents with symptoms of cough, fever and shortness of breath; and
WHEREAS, on March 1, 2020, Ron DeSantis, Governor of the State of Florida, issued Executive Order number 20-51, directing the Florida Department of Health to issue a Public Health Emergency; and
For the first time, SCORE Chapters within the nonprofit’s District 480 are joining forces to offer small business owners throughout the region the critical guidance needed today to determine whether they should stay in business and the best steps for moving forward. In a special six-part webinar series, presenters from five SCORE Chapters will guide small business owners—the backbone of the local and national economy—through an easy-to-follow, four-step process for meeting today’s small business challenges and creating a path for the future.
Small business owners need to learn how to take action to preserve their livelihoods and those of their employees now more than ever. According to an April survey from Main Street America, 7.5 million small businesses nationwide will shut permanently if business disruption caused by COVID-19 continues unabated. In Southwest Florida, in Lee County alone, a recent survey by Florida Gulf Coast University’s Regional Economic Research Institute shows that 56% surveyed businesses reported a decrease in demand of more than 50% as a result of the pandemic.
In response to the ever-increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the Winter Haven area, the City of Winter Haven is holding a Free Face Mask Giveaway program beginning July 10.
Disposable face masks will be distributed in a drive-through process at the Winter Haven Recreational and Cultural Center parking lot at 801 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and at the Florida Citrus Building (Nora Mayo Hall) at 500 3rd Street NW. This service is available from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Friday, July 10 and from Monday July 13 through Friday, July 17. Area citizens can visit one of these two sites to receive up to three disposable face masks for each person in the car while supplies last.
It is up to each of us to do our park to mitigate the impact of this virus. The use of face masks could reduce the spread of Covid-19 when worn around others and in public spaces. All citizens are urged to wear a face mask when in the company of other people. Face masks or face coverings are required in all City of Winter Haven government facilities.
Please call 291-5600 should you have questions about this face mask distribution program.
As of the publishing of this blog masks are required to be worn in City buildings and in indoor spaces within the City of Lakeland. The County has passed a resolution strongly encouraging masks.
The County Commission decided not to mandate but rather encourage use of masks. See the resolution language below. If you don't want to read the whole thing, here is the gist:
The Board of County Commissioners of Polk County, Florida, strongly encourages the use of cloth face coverings and requests that all people who are able to wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
RESOLUTION NO. 2020- __
A RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA, ENCOURAGING THE USE OF CLOTH FACE COVERINGS AND REQUESTING THAT ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE ABLE TO WEAR CLOTH FACE COVERINGS IN PUBLIC SETTINGS WHEN AROUND PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF THEIR HOUSEHOLD, ESPECIALLY WHEN OTHER SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES ARE DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE
WHEREAS, according to the CDC, "COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice (e.g., while shouting, chanting, or singing);" and
WHEREAS, the CDC states "these droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs;" and
WHEREAS, the CDC also states "recent studies show that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms (are “asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (are “pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms;" and
WHEREAS, to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that "all people 2 years of age and older wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain;"
WHEREAS, "widely used cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others (particularly when used along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces), by protecting the people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants);"
WHEREAS, the cloth face coverings recommended by the CDC "are not surgical masks or respirators…are not personal protective equipment (PPE)… are not appropriate substitutes for PPE such as respirators (like N95 respirators) or medical facemasks (like surgical masks) in workplaces where respirators or facemasks are recommended or required to protect the wearer;" and
WHEREAS, on July 7, 2020, the Board of County Commissioners of Polk County, Florida, authorized the purchase of sufficient numbers of face masks to be used by the citizens of Polk County at no charge.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA, THAT:
Section 1. The Board of County Commissioners of Polk County, Florida, strongly encourages the use of cloth face coverings and requests that all people who are able to wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Section 2. This Resolution shall take effect immediately upon its approval.
There were a few important updates today that I wanted to share with you.
- As of July 8 masks will be required to be worn by all employees and customers within a City of Winter Haven government building. You can read more about that here.
- Tonight during the City Commission agenda review meeting they discussed a mask mandate for indoor spaces within the City limits, similar to that implemented in Lakeland last week. Each commissioner expressed support but they will have to vote on this resolution during next Monday's Commission meeting. As soon as I have the specific language of the resolution I will forward it to you. The City attorney indicated that it will likely be very similar to Lakeland's and you can read their ordinance here.
- The County Government decided not to pass a mask mandate at their meeting yesterday and rather issued a proclamation encouraging mask use. You can read that here.
Disposable face masks will be distributed by the City of Winter Haven government in a drive-through process at the Winter Haven Recreational and Cultural Center parking lot at 801 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and at the Florida Citrus Building (Nora Mayo Hall) at 500 3rd Street NW. This service is available from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Friday, July 10 and from Monday July 13 through Friday, July 17. Area citizens can visit one of these two sites to receive up to three disposable face masks for each person in the car while supplies last.
The Chamber still has about 700 washable, non-medical grade Hanes cotton masks and if you are interested in those we are offering up to 12 per Chamber member business. Please email Rachel@winterhavenchamber.com. I am in discussion with the county to procure 3,000-5,000 Level 1 disposable masks to distribute to businesses in east Polk County and as soon as I receive confirmation I will let you know how to get those from us.
Polk Cares Business Assistance Funding Update:
As of this morning, the County had received $18M in applications for the $20M small business assistance CARES act fund. As a goal to pay as many received applications as possible they will be closing applications for businesses at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, July 17. Individual assistance applications will close at 11:59 p.m on Friday, July 10. Only complete applications will be processed. The call center is still available for questions at 863-298-7500. Learn more at https://www.polk-county.net/polk-cares-2020.
- With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise, Governor DeSantis yesterday issued Executive Order 20-166 Emergency Management – Extension of Executive Order 20-52 which is extending the order originally issued in March and renewed in May for an additional 60 days through September 5, 2020. The move allows the state to continue accessing federal funds to respond to the pandemic. For a full list of COVID-related Executive Orders, please click here
- There has been a lot of media coverage regarding schools reopening. The DOE Commissioner's mandate that schools are open 5-days a week does not prevent our local school district from also coming up with alternative modes of education for those parents not comfortable sending their kids back to the physical location, which they are already working on. Stay up-to-date with the reopening plans here.
All my best -
Katie Worthington Decker
With the ever-increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the Winter Haven area, the City of Winter Haven is implementing a face mask policy for employees and customers in City government facilities beginning Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
To further protect all employees and all customers who use City facilities, face masks will be required inside all City of Winter Haven government facilities. Customers are required to wear a facemask or covering when entering any City of Winter Haven facility and when occupying those interior public spaces. (It is
understood that certain situations and conditions will prohibit mask use such as
intense physical activity or a personal medical issue prohibiting the use of a covering.) Free masks are available at every City facility should a customer not
have one to wear.
Should a customer not wish to enter a facility, but need to conduct business with the City of Winter Haven, electronic services are available on the City website at www.mywinterhaven.com . Services and guidance is also available by calling the department of interest and asking for virtual assistance. For more information on the City of Winter Havens response to COVID-19 please visit https://www.mywinterhaven.com/government/covid-19-impacts-and-updates/ .
As we head into the weekend to celebrate Independence Day, I have to be honest, it makes me a bit nervous. Polk County's COVID-19 cases and the percent positives in testing continue to increase. While I know our members are taking this very seriously, I worry that the public-at-large, fatigued of being cooped up and missing each other, has begun to get together in larger groups throwing health experts' recommendations to the wind. Please go into this weekend remembering we are still in the middle of this, and personal accountability and cautionary measures, however inconvenient in the short term, can help keep our economy moving and our businesses open! What happened last week to our bars and breweries is devastating to those small business owners we call our neighbors and friends.
A few updates to share:
Wishing you a safe, healthy, and happy 4th of July holiday!
All my best -
Katie Worthington Decker
The Mahalak Auto Group promotes Clint Turnbull to General Manager of DodgeChrysler Jeep RAM of Winter Haven
Executive order regarding the suspension of the on-site consumption of alcohol at 'bars'. If 50% of your sales are from alcohol you are included in the order. Restaurants are still permitted to serve.
DAVENPORT, Fla., June 22, 2020 — With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the U.S. and in Florida, cardiac care is a priority at AdventHealth Heart of Florida and a guiding force behind the new Heart Success Center.
In Polk County, the death rate from heart disease is higher than the rest of Florida. AdventHealth leaders see this not only as a cause for concern but as a cause for action.
RUBIO, CRUZ, SCOTT INTRODUCE BILL TO EXPAND PPP ELIGIBILITY TO CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND DESTINATION MARKETING ORGANIZATIONS
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, joined U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tim Scott (R-SC) to introduce a bill to expand Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) eligibility to local chambers of commerce, which provide valuable resources to small businesses across the country, and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), which play an important role in creating a vibrant tourism industry. Read the full text of the bill here.
“The Paycheck Protection Program has helped millions of small businesses and nonprofits across a wide range of industries endure the coronavirus pandemic,” Chairman Rubio said. “It is critical that nonprofits designed to support the economic success of local communities survive, including chambers of commerce and destination-based organizations that promote tourism. I am proud to work with my colleagues to address this eligibility issue and help these organizations whose mission is to help our small businesses and the travel industry.”
“In Texas alone, roughly half of all small businesses belong to their local chamber of commerce, and the members of more than 6,500 chambers across the country are in urgent need of the services these organizations provide,” Senator Cruz said. “Hundreds of small businesses and communities also rely on tourism – which has been decimated during this pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program has been an enormous success, and I’m hopeful the Senate will move swiftly to pass this bill to equip even more job creators with the resources they need to grow their way out of this economic crisis and get the American people back to work.”
“Small businesses are the backbone of our country and today, more than ever, they need our help to survive this pandemic and put Americans back on the pathway to jobs and economic wellness,” Senator Scott said. “As a former small business owner, I know how vital small businesses are for our local economies. This legislation would expand this critical program to our non-profits and Chambers of Commerce that offer the important infrastructure in our communities by providing valuable resources to local businesses. As a tourism destination state, South Carolina would not only benefit from the expansion of these loans, but the state would also continue to provide employment for hardworking families during this time. I want to thank my Senate colleagues for understanding the importance of this program and working to ensure that the folks back home are not left behind.”
Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Joins National Initiative to Address Inequality of Opportunity
Lakeland FL – SPCA Florida is committed to enriching the lives of people and pets in our community through a Network of Hope. SPCA Florida has been helping animals and their families for over 40 years and are committed to serving the community through education, outreach, and support services.
At SPCA Florida, our strength is our staff. And, caring for animals is more than just a job, it’s our passion.
SPCA Florida is looking to add to their team of dedicated, innovative, and compassionate people who work tirelessly to care for every animal. Our Campus of Kindness is growing to meet the demands of the community and the animals we serve. Employment opportunities include Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, Adoption and Animal Care personnel and Canine team members. SPCA Florida offers nationally competitive wages, benefits, a 403(b) plan, paid time off, and six (6) paid holidays. Starting pay is based on experience and education. If you are looking for a rewarding career in animal welfare, we want you!
SPCA Florida is an Equal Opportunity Employer and Drug-Free Work Place.
Positions available at www.spcaflorida/employment
We work together to make a difference in the lives of animals.
May 26, 2020, Winter Haven – Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida now has lighted flagpoles installed at all of its 8 locations. We firmly believe during this time of uncertainty during the COVID-19 crisis that showing our unity within our communities is a top priority. Flying our American flag honors our military veterans, those still actively serving, and celebrates our wonderful country all at the same time.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020 — Polk State College has prepared a three-phased Return to Campus plan that supports the return of administrators and select personnel to the College’s campuses and centers beginning on Monday, July 20, 2020.
Students should note that most courses will remain online through the Fall 2020 Semester. Students enrolled in select workforce education and training programs will receive specialized information from their program directors and instructors. All students are encouraged to monitor their Polk State accounts for important communication and the College’s COVID-19 webpage for updates.
“President’s Staff and the COVID-19 Leadership Team have worked diligently on the Return to Campus plan with the health and safety of faculty, staff, students, and the greater community remaining at the forefront,” President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “Guiding principles of the plan include protecting our constituents and preserving academic and business continuity.”
Phase 1: "Safe, Smart, Step-by-Step" plan for Florida's Recovery:
Expanding Phase 1: Safe, Smart, Step-by-Step Plan for Florida's Recovery:
"Full Phase 1": Safe, Smart, Step-by-Step Plan for Florida's Recovery:
Phase 2: "Safe, Smart, Step-by-Step plan for Florida's Recovery:
Winter Haven City Manager Mike Herr recently announced the search for a new Director of Diversity and Inclusivity has resulted in the appointment of Christine Samuel to fill this new position. Committed to increasing diversity and inclusivity, the Director of Diversity position is newly created. Responsibilities include developing, managing, and advancing the City’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization and among the community served.
Under the guidance of the City Manager, the Director of Diversity will work in concert with City employees, leadership, and community stakeholders to establish equity as a shared value and operating principle; promote diversity; foster an inclusive environment where employees and citizens feel a sense of belonging; cultivate a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness; and proactively seek to connect diverse ideas in different ways to achieve common goals resulting in a healthy and strong Winter Haven community.