A Message from Sunny Isles Beach Mayor, George “Bud” Scholl
(Friday, May 1, 2020) – I want to thank all of the residents who have reached out and let me know of your perspectives and desires regarding the relaxation of some of the current restrictions within our city. As you all know, my family and I are also residents of the City, so we too feel the frustration that many of the current policies have created. It is a very difficult time in all of our lives. In addition to the burden of social isolation policies, many of us are also experiencing economic hardships in spite of the attempts by the federal and state government to bring economic relief. Given the closure of schools and daycare centers, those that have been able to maintain their jobs may now have the added burden of childcare. These pressures are not lost on me and I am very sorry that our community is experiencing such hardships.
As some of you know, in addition to being your Mayor, I am also the President and CEO of OneBlood. OneBlood is a not-for-profit that I have spent the last eight years building into one of the largest blood centers in the country. I bring this up to provide you with the understanding that, given my unique responsibilities of overseeing the blood supply for our region of the country, I am also in a position that regularly puts me and my organization in contact with many of the health officials and political policy makers in our state and federal governments. As was indicated in one of the letters I recently received, as a city, we did indeed act early relative to other county and municipal governments. This was largely because I had become aware of the necessity to act quickly because of my role at OneBlood.
I bring all this to light because I am very concerned about our response as a city, region and state to how we will approach “opening up” in the near and medium term. Just because we are frustrated with isolation, or that the State figures indicate only seven COVID-19 cases within our city (which reported data can be very inaccurate), or that the death toll is decreasing, does not mean it will be safe to relax the current measures we have all worked so hard to maintain. The fact is there is no discernible scientific data to suggest it is time to “open up.” There is a lot of public pressure on our political, medical and scientific leadership to get things back to normal. Moving too quickly may create a meaningful increase in deaths and will certainly cause a resurgence in cases of mild to critically ill patients. OneBlood was one of the first blood centers in the country to start collecting and distributing COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP), so I have been tracking many of these cases. Although CCP has saved many patients, the virus is still very deadly, even with therapies such as CCP and some of the drugs that are currently in clinical trials. Finally, research has indicated that many of us have had the virus, yet did not exhibit any symptoms, and unknowingly spread it. These asymptomatic cases are further reasons to maintain our current course until wider-spread testing and tracing is available and the infection rates show a consistent decrease over time.
So what does all this mean for our city and my decisions as your Mayor? We need to take our time and only open those amenities back up that we can properly manage to ensure that our residents can be safe and maintain their responsibility for social distancing. This is why we will be opening our parks on a limited basis starting next Wednesday and did not immediately align with the County. Most of our recreation employees were reassigned to our Parks division and are currently being trained to ensure that, when they are opened, everyone using our parks is safe and order is maintained.
There have been a lot of questions regarding the reopening of the beach. As most of you know, the City does not have jurisdiction over the beach. We have been dialoging with the County on a regular basis regarding strategies to provide access to the beach. However, we cannot make the decision to open the beach for our residents only, or any other select group, as many have written and called to request. When the beach is opened, even if on a limited use basis, we will not be able to restrict access and we will need to have sufficient personnel in place to enforce social distancing and limited use policies. Given the huge impact access to the beach will have on all our communities, the County must coordinate all beaches to open at the same time with the same guidelines. This will likely include Broward County as well. An isolated opening in any one area will bring an overwhelming amount of people to that area and create a very difficult situation to manage. Consequently, our discussions with County Mayor Gimenez have included the surrounding county managers (Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach). Every county and city that maintains access to a beach must be in a position to provide the enforcement resources to keep those on the beach safe and properly distanced once the beaches are opened, even if the opening is for a limited use basis. I hope this explanation provides some additional clarity on the decisions and coordination necessary when considering reopening beach access.
Concurrently, we are putting in a great deal of effort to determine the best course of action for the reopening of businesses. Although parks and beach openings are more important to our residents, getting our businesses up and running in a safe and manageable way also needs to be considered as a top priority.
As I indicated above, I understand that these are very frustrating times for all of us. Additionally, we all will not likely agree on any one course of action. There are many residents that feel strongly we maintain the current course, with as much social isolation for as long as possible. Those residents have argued against opening up our parks and beaches. However, in the end we are all part of a much broader regional community that will dictate certain actions take place whether we agree with them or not. As described above, my bias is toward putting careful and thoughtful safety measures in place and take relaxing our current restrictions one small step at a time. It is to the benefit of all, especially our most vulnerable population, to take the time to get it right.
I hope this message provides you with some perspective into the events that are shaping my thinking on how to guide our City through these most unprecedented times. As you have heard by now many times – we are all in this together. As your City government, your safety and well–being will always be our highest priority. May God bless all of us.