March 20, 2020 — On Thursday, March 19, Florence Mayor Joe Henry released an open letter to the community updating residents on the urgency of the danger posed by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 virus and the actions being taken by the city to combat the pandemic.
“I know the past few weeks, especially the past few days, have been filled with uncertainty, fear and heartache,” Henry stated. “Many of us have never experienced something like this in our lifetimes. Working together, I think we can come through this stronger as a community, but we know it will be difficult before it gets better.”
Henry described the situation as a fight against the coronavirus, which is entering “a stark new phase” that has prompted federal and state government to take extraordinary actions an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Many of these are under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, with the minimal mandate encouraging social distancing.
“This includes limiting public and private gatherings, restricting restaurants to take-out and delivery services and extending school closures,” said Henry, who added that now wasn’t the time to point fingers or discriminate against those who may become infected.
“The virus does not discriminate. We cannot combat COVID-19 if we turn on each other or stigmatize people who test positive and become ill,” Henry said. “That only puts sick people and the broader community at-risk because it discourages people from getting tested, getting care and staying home.
“We are all afraid of the unknown and how this virus will end up impacting our lives. It is our job to remain kind and supportive during these uncertain times.”
Henry’s letter to the community comes on the heels of yet another major closing in the area the day before, Three Rivers Casino Resort.
“These are very uncertain times and tough decisions have to be made to ensure the health and safety of our tribal members, team members and guests,” said Tribal Chairman Doc Slyter with the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians. “We will cease all gaming, hotel and restaurant activities on tribal property … for the duration of two weeks.”
Slyter said the casino’s plan is to reopen April 1, with the tribe providing emergency paid leave and benefits for Three Rivers employees in both Florence and Coos Bay during the temporary closure period.
“We will continue to monitor the situation nationally and locally,” he added.
Updates on casino operations will be posted at www.threeriverscasino.com as new information becomes available.
In his March 19 letter, Henry was clear in requesting that citizens not only take the pandemic seriously, but also to consider the source of the information that they are listening to and do their best to determine the validity of the source.
“Please educate yourself through trusted and official resources to reduce the spread of misinformation. Much of what is shared on social media does not have a reliable or trackable source,” Henry said. “We urge our community to be diligent in ensuring the information they consume and share is from official sources.
“I urge you to stay safe and healthy, stay informed, and continue to be the caring and compassionated community I know we are. And, may God bless the City of Florence.”
The city has also announced a change to the format for an upcoming special meeting of the Florence City Council set for Monday, March 23, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The city will consider updating public meeting procedures and making an emergency declaration.
“These actions will be considered in response to recent executive orders from Governor Brown concerning COVID-19 and social distancing requirements,” the city said in a press release on Thursday.
The meeting will occur via a conference call and be shown live on Charter Cable Channel 191 and livestreamed online.
“It is strongly encouraged that the public not attend the meeting in person,” the release said. “To protect safety and ensure social distancing, only a limited number of audience members will be allowed to attend the meeting. In person meeting attendance will be subject to applicable regulations in place at the time of the meeting, which are subject to change.”
For details regarding the upcoming City Council meeting, contact City Recorder/Economic Development Coordinator Kelli Weese at 541-997-3437.
The city has also provided an extensive list of recommendations and actions taken to reduce the spread of the pandemic locally in addition to the strategies put in place by Oregon’s governor and to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The City has implemented the following:
• Suspended all city committee meetings until further notice.
• Suspended all programming and gatherings at the Florence Events Center, as well as closed the facility to the public, through April 13, along with the Florence Senior Center
• The Public Works Operations Facility is closed to the public. City staff continue to operate essential functions from that facility.
• As of March 18, Florence City Hall began limiting its front counter service.
• Senior Meals formerly provided through Florence Senior Center’s Café 60 can still be obtained by calling 541-682-3353 or visiting lcog.org/160/Senior-Meals.
The City of Florence has outlined the measures being taken locally that are COVID-19 related and provided links to Lane County Public Health and the Oregon Health Authority at www.ci.florence.or.us/covid19.