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Safety Harbor nursing home on Florida COVID-19 list

in news/town square
Consulate Health Care on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street in Safety Harbor. (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

 A Safety Harbor nursing home is among 307 in the state where patients, residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a list of the facilities released Saturday by state officials. 

Consulate Health Care of Safety Harbor was included on the list released by the Florida Department of Health after Gov. Ron DeSantis reversed a previous position and ordered the release of the names of facilities. The director of Consulate Health Care of Safety Harbor could not reached for comment.

Another facility in Safety Harbor was originally on the list but it was removed Sunday. State officials indicated that listing was an error. 

The list of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities was all that was released. The list did not specify how many cases each facility has had, or whether the victims were staff or residents. It also it did not disclose which facilities have had a death from the virus. 

As of Monday at 5:50 p.m., the Florida Department of Health reported 27,058 positive cases, up 744 since Sunday. The state death toll went up to 823, an increase of 34 since Monday morning.

So far, the state has reported 1,785 cases of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, resulting in 175 deaths. For weeks DeSantis declined to identify the nursing homes and assisted living facilities that were struck by the virus. The Department of Health notes that its data is and subject to change and it represents COVID-19 positive reports in staff and residents from long-term care facilities from March 2, 2020 to date.

 A coalition of Florida newspaper outlets threatened to sue his administration to get the names. At a news conference Saturday, DeSantis said the state was now requiring the facilities to notify relatives of residents about positive corona-virus cases.  

He said that he had not wanted a situation where the families don’t know what is happening. The list includes 25 Pinellas County facilities. Tampa has four and Pasco has two.

Keeping Safety Harbor Strong

in news/town square
photo/Cyndy Peer

On Monday, Scott Long started getting random messages from friends. They were writing to check on him, to ask questions, and like most of us in Safety Harbor, they were concerned about life with new rules due to coronavirus.

Then he was added to a Facebook group for bar and restaurant owners.

“I realized there had to be a better way,” he said during a phone interview.

So, he used the social media platform to create a group—one that could connect the Harbor, share information, and ask for help when needed. He named the group Safety Harbor Strong. Hours later, he had 500 members. Now, just days later, the group has over 1,000.

“It really took on a life of its own very quickly. It’s beyond what I thought would happen,” Long said. “Obviously, we all have our own needs and concerns. There are folks on there that I don’t know but they jumped on, posting what they need and what they can offer. There are a lot of teachers offering online lesson plans. Businesses offering pickup and delivery. There was someone whose dog needed help for a wound. People offered help.”

Megan Willoughby shared a post about BayCare offering drive up coronavirus testing.  Library Director Lisa Kothe shared that due to the library’s closure, the number of Hoopla check-outs has been increased to six per month through April 30. Harbor Dish founder Chris Sauger shared information on local food pantries, there is a post on free lunch locations for students and there have even been a few locals offering to help deliver meals.

The Sun contacted City Manager Matt Spoor to ask about City employees and how services have changed.  

“We are following all CDC guidelines for staff, cleaning, safe distance etc,” Spoor answered. “All employees will continue to work either from their work site, home, or take accrued leave. There is no one right answer, we have 200 employees across the City.”

There has never been anything to compare what we are experiencing to anything we have lived through, so of course, residents and City leaders alike are doing what they can to make life feel as normal, and be as conscientious, as possible.

Long is known for his public service. He is a former City Commissioner and currently serves on the Library Foundation Board. He started and continues to facilitate Melons for Moolah, an annual fundraiser benefiting local non-profits.

“Two big library fundraisers have been canceled,” he explained. “Drag Queen Bingo and Casino Night. A lot of events will not happen this year. ChalkFest was canceled and in the meantime, I am trying to prepare for June and Watermelon Week for Melons for Moolah.”

Like many in Safety Harbor and even worldwide, Long has taken a financial hit. “My business is being decimated by this. At the same time there is not a lot of work right now. I can sit and watch Netflix or I can do something for my community. “

Some of our local bars and restaurants are changing how they operate, some offering take-out, while others have moved tables to accommodate recommended social distancing. “II think what is going to help our small businesses in town is sharing the pain we are all going through. The challenges are the same. How do you keep employees and do right by your clients?”

We may have to stand six feet away from each other until the virus is no longer a threat, but at least we can still communicate online and through calls and texts to help each other, especially those who can’t—or shouldn’t—leave their homes. Long says he is just trying to fill his life with as much positivity as possible through the social media group.  “If we can get more people involved and sharing it, the more we can stay in touch and get involved.”

Local elections: Before the campaigns begin

in city hall/news
city seal
(Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

Campaign season has formally begun in Safety Harbor for the 2020 municipal election. Have you ever considered how the officials in our town get on the ballot?  Most of us are too busy to spend time learning how the process works, so the Safety Harbor Sun is delving into the procedural process to become a candidate in our city. 

Our next municipal elections will be on March 17, 2020, the same day as the national primaries. Safety Harbor typically schedules elections to coincide with presidential primaries and other state and county elections as this offers significant savings on printing and other fees. Safety Harbor will have two open seats; Mayor and Commissioner Seat Four, each of which is a three-year term. All Commissioners and the Mayor are elected in non-partisan, at-large elections. There are no term limits in Safety Harbor.  These are not full-time positions and commissioners typically have continued their careers while serving. Compensation for these positions is:   

  • Mayor:  $9,587.16/annually ($6,000/year + $3,587.16 per diem/year). 
  • Commissioners:  $8,387.16/annually ($4,800/year + $3,587.16 per diem/year

So, how does a resident get on the ballot for the March election?  A potential candidate must be a registered voter and a resident of the city for at least one year. The qualifying period for the upcoming election ran from noon on December 2 to noon on December 9. The qualifying period is when announced candidates have to finalize all the requirements to run for office in Florida. The requirements are mainly dictated by state law and are significant; the handbook runs to hundreds of pages.  

Before December 2, each candidate must purchase the Candidate Handbook for $40, appoint a Campaign Treasurer, designate a depository for a campaign account and submit an official Candidate Statement. This is just the beginning of a list of forms and required fees as mandated by the state of Florida.

Interested candidates meet with City Clerk and Safety Harbor Supervisor of Elections Karen Sammons to review all the requirements and begin the process. Some of the other steps include returning 100 petition cards from registered voters and filing eleven additional forms. There are fees to be paid from the campaign account established for this purpose. They are $160 for Mayor and $123 for Commissioner. Financial statements are required to identify sources of income and disallow someone who may want to profit from their position in government. Campaigns can be financed by the candidate or from declared donations.

Once a person meets all the qualifications for candidacy, they can begin campaigning. Signs may be posted 90 days prior to election (12/18/2019) and must be removed by March 24, 2020. Clearwater and Dunedin have very similar processes for qualification.

There are currently five declared candidates in Safety Harbor. These people have completed the initial steps for candidacy, opened campaign accounts, and submitted the necessary petitions. For Mayor, incumbent Joe Ayoub and Tanja Vidovic are qualified. For Commissioner Seat Four there also three declared candidates; incumbent Carlos Diaz, John Estok, and David Roth.

Residents must be registered by February 18 to vote in the March election.  So far, there are seven voting locations in the city. These election precincts are listed here.

Pinellas County currently has 685,996 Active Registered Voters. Safety Harbor has 13,553, consisting of 4248 Democrats, 5304 Republicans, 3860 with No Party Affiliation and 141 Other.

Statistics courtesy of the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

shamc safety harbor sunday morning vegan market going on! / jarine dotson photography

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shamc safety harbor sunday vegan marketing going on! / jarine dotson photography

shabby chic market, market on main, and pet blessing! sundays in safety harbor :)

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shabby chic market, market on main-10-3, and pet blessing 3-5! sundays in safety harbor!
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