Polk County coronavirus: Lakeland mayor, county officials at odds over ‘stay-at-home’ order

Coronavirus

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The mayor of Lakeland says it is time for the city to issue a stay-at-home order in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

“The worst storm is yet to come and the numbers should dictate to us how severe we have to become,” said Mayor Bill Mutz.

Mutz, who is self-isolating after returning from international travel, told News Channel 8 he is tired of seeing people disregarding social distancing guidelines.

Courtesy: City of Lakeland

“You can drive all over our city and still see all kinds of assembling of people in groups of six or seven, running together, walking together, not six feet apart,” he said. “If you’re a health care worker and you witness this kind of thing going on and your life is at risk every day, you’re – ‘going what are people thinking? They have no clue.’”

At a special city commission meeting Monday afternoon, he will open up discussion with commissioners about temporarily closing non-essential businesses.

“If you take seven days, maybe more, to be able to just get people to stop being together,” he said. “That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what I’d be advocating.”

There are two reported cases of COVID-19 in Lakeland, according to the latest report from the Department of Health.

The City of Lakeland and Polk County have both closed all facilities to the public, including government buildings and parks.

“If you look at Tampa’s, I think it’s very very well-conceived and frankly, it’s difficult for us as a city to take this posture. I strongly urge our county commission in Polk County to take this posture,” said Mayor Mutz.

“Right now I don’t see it happening. I just don’t see a need for it,” said Bill Braswell, chair of the board of county commissioners in Polk County. “We know what it means by social distancing. We know what we should be doing. People need their paychecks. They gotta go to work.”

Courtesy: Polk County

Braswell points out Polk County is more spread out than its neighboring counties that have issued some form of stay-at-home orders.

Most of the county’s 26 coronavirus cases are in Davenport, located in the northeast corner of the county.

“It’s a much more densely populated area than the other 90% of the county. We’re 2,000 square miles,” he said.

Braswell said he has received emails from concerned residents urging him not to shut down the economy even more.

“I really believe the economic fallout is going to be far worse than the virus itself. It’s going to kill some people and that’s horrible. It’s going to be bad but the economic fallout’s going to last for months, if not years, and that’s worse,” he said.

Officials from the cities of Winter Haven, Haines City and Bartow said they are not considering any stay-at-home orders at this time.

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