CORONAVIRUS: Pandemic sparks emergency PCB meeting

Nathan Cobb
Walton Sun

PANAMA CITY BEACH — In light of the coronavirus, officials will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday at city hall to discuss what’s next for Panama City Beach.

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According to Mayor Mike Thomas, the meeting comes at the heels of new information gathered by City Manager Tony O’Rourke. There, the council will decide how to tackle the pandemic over the coming weeks.

While Thomas was confident some regulations would be put in place, he believes there’s a fine line between protecting residents and risking the local economy.

“We will for sure limit crowds, (and) we will for sure do some things with canceling some (upcoming) events," he said. ”I think we ought to revisit everything every two to four weeks, rather than make hard, fast (decisions).

“... The city doesn’t have an ad velorem tax, (so) we make money off of 1% gross sales,” he added. “We’ve got to do the best we can do to try and keep our employees working (while at the same time doing) whatever is necessary to protect the safety of our citizens.”

According to O’Rourke, there are four key points the meeting will focus on. They include safe hygiene practices for residents, how the city will deal with its employees, community mitigation/preparedness and the necessity of maintaining clean areas.

“Some of our options are slowly being eroded because of the current state of affairs,” he said. “Things are moving so quickly.”

O’Rouke also believes PCB isn’t quite at the point where it needs to close all bars and restaurants like other areas.

He did, however, say that upcoming events including UNwined Craft Beer & Wine Festival and SandJam Fest will likely be rescheduled.

For him, Tuesday’s meeting, which will be held at 2 p.m., wasn’t an end-all discussion. He said officials will continue brainstorming as more information becomes available.

"The good news is that there’s a lot of evidence-based history on how pandemics work and how they skyrocket and how you can level them off,“ O’Rourke said. ”I’m hoping that these initiatives that are being proposed both locally and state wide nationally will shorten that spike and make it a hill rather than a mountain.“