Gulfshore Business Daily: March 17

COLLIER COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, NAPLES CITY OFFICIALS DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY

Collier County commissioners and Naples city officials independently declared states of emergency Monday afternoon in response to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. The county had an emergency special meeting to discuss its plans on the matter, while the city held a news conference. So far, Collier County has six confirmed cases of coronavirus, all of which are travel-related, officials report. To assure area hospitals can handle the additional stress, the county is trying to flatten the spread by distancing people so that it doesn’t happen all at once, says Stephanie Vick, administrator of the county’s Department of Health. Neither government entity is contemplating shutting down any private businesses such as bars or restaurants. “We are not closing private businesses. We are dealing with county services,” Collier County Commission Board Chairman Burt Saunders says. Although more than 80 volunteer workers have excused themselves from working the polls in Naples and Collier County, today’s election will continue as planned with two reassigned polling places. “As of right now, there will be an election (Tuesday),” says Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards. Although parks and beaches will remain open, organized sports leagues at county parks have been canceled until further notice. Cancellations include the annual US Open Pickleball Championships next month in East Naples. Elsewhere, unessential government gatherings such as workshops, advisory boards or neighborhood information meetings are canceled until further notice. Likewise, the city has postponed non-essential meetings until at least the end of March. 
 

LOCAL WHOLESALER OPENS CORONAVIRUS SUPPLIES FOR RETAIL SALE

Because of area COVID-19 needs, a local wholesale restaurant supply store opened its doors to the general public this week to retail its products, including toilet paper, tissues, gloves, disinfectants, soap and food items. “We have a huge stock of toilet paper and we have disinfectants. We are sitting on a big stockpile. We sold out of masks but we have more coming on Wednesday,” says Rudy Ambrosi, owner of Pro-Edge Paper and Sclafani Imported Italian Food Market. The family-owned business is shifting gears and selling to the public because of the obvious need now during supply shortages at area stores, but also because their regular business clients, such as restaurants, bars, hotels and schools, temporarily are not needing the supplies, Ambrosi said. “There’s need for the public,” he says. “We are just going to hunker down and sell to the public.” In addition to cleaning supplies, Ambrosi has pasta and jars and cans of other food products imported from Italy, including sauces, soups, tomatoes and olives. The restaurant supply store is located at 3910 Domestic Ave. in the industrial park area between Airport-Pulling and Livingston roads in East Naples. The business is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, visit https://proedgepaper.com/.
 

BONITA SPRINGS POSTPONES EVENTS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19

The City of Bonita Springs City Council has made the decision to postpone all special event permits for 30 days in the interest of preventing potential exposure of COVID-19. The city will offer refunds for event fees for canceled events. For events that are postponed, the city will also work closely with event organizers for future planning purposes. Upcoming events that are scheduled during the 30-day moratorium will need to be postponed or canceled. The situation will be assessed again as this 30-day period concludes. Any future decisions about additional efforts will be communicated at that time. Prior to the meeting this morning, the city had been informed that approximately six upcoming event permits decided to cancel/postpone as a precaution for the local community. The city is also postponing upcoming city organized events, Celebrate Bonita and Movies in the Park. Visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida. For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, contact the department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-(866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours a day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

 

LEE HEALTH OPENS MOBILE COLLECTION SITE TO TEST FOR COVID-19

Lee Health has established a drive-up site to collect specimens for COVID-19 to increase access for the number of people being tested in our community. The mobile site is in the parking lot of the Lee Convenient Care office at Page Field. Patients must have an order from their physician or provider and make an appointment before showing up to the collection site. These requirements are necessary to maintain an orderly collection process. Patients who are experiencing symptoms and don’t have a test order should call their primary care physician. The collection site opened on Monday at noon and will be open seven days a week from 12-4 p.m. The site will initially have the capacity to collect up to 32 specimens per day. Lee Health has plans in place to expand the hours and open additional collection sites due to demand. The Page Field Lee Convenient Care office is located at 4771 S Cleveland Avenue in Fort Myers. The mobile site is for the collection of COVID-19 samples only. The specimens will be sent to a lab for testing, which takes 3-4 days to return.
 

REPORT: SWFL UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DECREASES

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced on Monday the Fort Myers area added 4,300 new private-sector jobs in the past year. The area’s unemployment rate was 3.1% in January, down 0.7 percentage point from one year ago. The Naples area added 700 new private-sector jobs in the past year. The area’s unemployment rate was 3.0% in January, down 0.5 percentage point from one year ago. The industry with the highest growth over the year in the Fort Myers area was professional and business services with 2,100 new jobs. The industries with the highest growth over the year in the Naples area were construction with 800 new jobs and professional and business services with 700 new jobs. Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to an all time low at 2.8% in January, continuing to be below the national average of 3.6%. Florida added 164,500 private-sector jobs over the year and employing more than 10 million Floridians. On March 15, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a letter to the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) requesting to make the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program available for Florida’s small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
 

FLORIDA AMONG TOP STATES WITH HIGHEST NUMBER OF IDENTITY THEFT REPORTS

Florida is one of the top three states that had the highest number of identity theft reports in 2019, according to data gathered by PreciseSecurity. The three U.S. states—including Georgia and California— together hit over 211,000 complaints from citizens who became victims of identity theft fraud, or one-third of all US identity theft complaints reported last year. In 2019, the number of reported identity theft frauds in the U.S. jumped by 45%, revealed the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network survey. More than 217,000 reports or over 40% of all identity theft complaints received last year referred to credit card frauds. Loan or lease frauds ranked as the second-most-common identity theft scam, hitting almost 105,000 complaints last year. Phone or utility frauds and bank frauds followed with 83,500 and 59,000 reports, respectively. For more information, click here.
 

AAA: FLORIDA DRIVERS FINDING GAS PRICES BELOW $2 A GALLON

Florida drivers are beginning to find gas prices below $2 a gallon in many markets. According to AAA, 11% percent of Florida filling stations have sub-$2 gasoline. That number is sure to rise in the coming days. “Low pump prices are likely to get even lower this week,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The combination of the coronavirus and the ongoing price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia are contributing to some of the lowest futures prices since the Great Recession.” Florida gas prices dropped an average of 22 cents in the past 18 days. The state average of $2.17 per gallon is 11 cents less than a week ago, 44 cents less than this time last year, and 39 cents less than the highest price so far this year. For more information, visit AAA.com.
 

PUBLIC ATTRACTIONS TEMPORARILY CLOSE AMID COVID-19

Public attractions have announced temporary closures in response to COVID-19. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary closed on Monday and will remain closed until at least March 30. The Blair Audubon Visitor Center and boardwalk are closed to the public, and all events are canceled for at least the next two weeks. The Everglades Wonder Gardens closed on Monday. All events and programs, including Wild Wine Walk this Wednesday, remain suspended through April 1, and the timeframe may be extended if necessary. Naples Zoo temporarily closed to the public at 5 p.m. on March 15. It will remain closed through March 31, at a minimum. Alliance for the Arts has suspended all activities for the immediate future. Some events have been canceled, others have been postponed. For more information, visit https://www.artinlee.org/. Naples Historical Society has canceled all upcoming Society-sponsored large events at Historic Palm Cottage through the middle of April. At this time, Historic Palm Cottage will remain open to visitors, and all walking tours of the Naples Historic District will continue as planned. The Collier County Fair on March 15 suspended operations to the public until further notice.
 

DEADLINES EXTENDED, PENALTIES WAIVED FOR EXPIRING DRIVERS LICENSES, ID CARDS

In a response to the current health emergency, all driver licenses and identification cards in the state of Florida expiring between March 16 and April 15 will have a 30-day extension to renew, according to an emergency order issued by Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Any delinquent renewal fees incurred during the extension period will be waived. More than 4,000 Lee County residents will be impacted by Executive Order 20-52. The Lee County Tax Collector is urging Lee County residents to call or visit the official website before coming to any of its locations. Many services can be accomplished online or over the phone and do not require an in-person visit. Visit www.leetc.com or call (239) 533-6000 with any questions prior to your visit.
 

CHARITABLE NOTES

NCEF invests over $20 million to support future generations in Collier County

The Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF) has invested more than $20 million in 43 local nonprofit agencies that improve the physical, emotional and educational lives of children in Collier County. When factoring in program efficiencies and savings from the prior year, the full impact of the NCEF support reaches nearly $22.2 million. This investment in future generations includes individual funding grants of $7.1 million, plus $15.1 million for seven multi-year strategic initiatives that fill fundamental gaps in children’s services. This year, the number of agencies receiving annual grants totaled 33, plus 10 other agencies that help fill critical needs in the local community by taking part in NCEF’s seven multi-partner, multi-year strategic initiatives focusing on the well-being of the whole child. These strategic initiatives include early learning, healthcare, hunger, mental health, oral health, out-of-school time and vision. The “Fund the Future,” supporting all seven of these initiatives, brought in contributions of more than $5 million. The success of the 2020 Naples Winter Wine Festival also enabled NCEF to allocate $1.8 million into a fund for future projects and strategic initiatives. This funding will ensure NCEF has an adequate amount of funding should there be a year of additional needs and support that are not covered by the festival proceeds.

 

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