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City declares a public health emergency for COVID-19

New special events will not be permitted

Post Date:03/13/2020 1:52 PM

Contact:  Jan Thornburg, Sr. Communications Manager   941-263-6369                 

Sarasota, FL:  To protect the health and safety of the community and position the City to qualify for possible state or federal funds for losses associated with COVID-19, the City of Sarasota has declared a local citywide public health emergency.  All gatherings within the city limits scheduled to occur on or before March 20, 2020 likely to attract more than 250 persons are strongly advised to cancel.  This includes all gatherings managed, permitted or supported by City staff.

New special events will not be permitted by the City until further notice.

City Manager Tom Barwin, in consultation with Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, approved the emergency declaration this morning.  By City Charter, an emergency declaration must be re-evaluated on a week-to-week basis.  The City Commission will review the declaration during its next regularly scheduled meeting Monday, March 16 starting at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1565 First Street.

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, owned and operated by the City of Sarasota, will suspend and reschedule performances through March 31. The Box Office, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, will remain open:  Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Online ticket sales are available as well. 

The Sarasota Farmers Market will be closed tomorrow, Saturday, March 14.

“In discussing this rapidly changing situation and the health implications with the executive director of the Farmers Market and the leadership of the major cultural arts venues this morning, most are in agreement that, while unfortunate, it is prudent to follow Governor DeSantis’ recommendation for social distancing and to avoid large gatherings of 250 people or more,” said City Manager Tom Barwin.  “We will continue to monitor and implement best recommended practices from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Governor’s Office and Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County.  Health and safety are top priorities for the citizens we serve and our employees. We’re taking necessary actions to help protect our community, which includes a high number of the elderly, who are especially vulnerable for this virus. We will re-evaluate the declaration of emergency on Monday with the City Commission.”

Events that proceed to be held in the city limits should have screening measures in place to prevent people who have been exposed to COVID-19 from entering and to protect the health and safety of attendees.

Residents are encouraged to contact local venues and organizers to determine the status of their operations.

The City has been actively monitoring this dynamic ­­situation with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County and Sarasota County Emergency Management with frequent briefings.

During the past two weeks, the City beefed up cleaning and sanitizing of public spaces, focusing on common touch points at City facilities, such as doorknobs, handrails and countertops.  Hand sanitizer stations are visible and available.                

The health and well-being of City employees is an utmost concern.  Work-related travel has been suspended. A temporary remote work policy has been implemented allowing employees to request to telework, with requests reviewed on a case-by-case basis and duties performed.  Appropriate additional paid sick leave is being granted for eligible employees who provide information that they or a dependent has been diagnosed with influenza or COVID-19.  There are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the City’s employee base.   

A Sarasota-specific call center for questions and concerns about COVID-19 is now available through the Department of Health in Sarasota County:  941-861-2873. Subject matter experts are available Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The most current, official information on COVID-19 in Florida can be found at  A 24/7 hotline is also available:  1-866-779-6121.

For more information contact Jan Thornburg, Senior Communications Manager:  941-263-6369



About the City of Sarasota:  Distinguished by U.S. News and World Report as the 18th Best Place to Live in the U.S., the City of Sarasota is a diverse community located on Florida’s Suncoast with 56,000 year-round residents, several internationally recognized cultural arts venues, stunning sunsets along Lido Beach, a 45-hole municipal golf course at the historic Bobby Jones Golf Club, and Major League spring training baseball with the Baltimore Orioles.  Learn more about us at www.SarasotaFL.Gov

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