Saturday, May 02, 2020

St. Johns County: "Florida county’s medical examiner begged officials to close beaches, public records show " (WaPo)

From The Washington Post, encouraging news that an assistant medical examiner working for Dr. Predrag Bulic, M.D. exercised her God-given First Amendment constitutional rights to engage in protected activity re: beach closing. Thank you, Dr. Deanna A. Oleske, M.D. Good policy requires good science and it requires that diverse views be encouraged. Thank you for speaking out!

11:37 a.m.

Florida county’s medical examiner begged officials to close beaches, public records show 

Officials in Florida’s St. Johns County weathered heavy criticism from their own medical examiner and residents in March for not closing beaches — at the same time the beaches saw record crowds.
St. Johns County, the home of St. Augustine, “saw crowds that nearly doubled spring break last year as well as Memorial Day,” Doug Bataille, the county’s parks director, wrote to other county officials in an email in mid-March. He explained that the county had lost the vendor that cleaned its beaches’ portable toilets.
At the same time, residents and Deanna A. Oleske, the associate medical examiner for the county, wrote to officials and pleaded to close the beaches, according to emails obtained by Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation and reviewed by The Washington Post.
“Protect the residents of [St. Johns County],” Oleske wrote to County Administrator Hunter Conrad on March 23. “Close the beaches. Please.”
Oleske repeatedly warned officials in emails that her office is “in a dire situation,” and she didn’t have the necessary staff, equipment and capacity to handle all the potential covid-19 deaths. She said her office, along with the county’s hospitals and funeral homes, could hold a total of 119 deceased.
The county kept beaches open through March and did not close them until April 2, a day after an aerial photo showed a line of people clearly delineating the border of a neighboring county that closed its beaches. Officials then reopened St. Johns beaches two weeks later with limited hours.
On Monday, the county will remove all restrictions on beachgoers, although the beachgoers still will need to follow guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
County spokesperson Michael Ryan didn’t immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment but told the New York Times on Thursday that beachgoers were social distancing.
As of Saturday, there have been four deaths from the coronavirus and more than 200 confirmed cases in the county.
By Meryl Kornfield

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