I’d like to give you the latest update on action the Crystal River City Council has taken regarding COVID-19 as of March 24. On March 16, I declared a local state of emergency, enabling the city to be able to respond to issues that arise in the fastest way possible and to take necessary action moving forward. 

All city parks are now closed, including all kayak launches. In coordination with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Three Sisters Springs National Wildlife Refuge has also been closed. We have also suspended our city trolley service. 

In addition, in a unanimous vote, the city has decided to stop for-profit water-based tourism activities, specifically, manatee swim tour companies, boat rentals and paddle craft rentals.  The rationale behind this is to limit tourists coming into our area.   

We are in a global pandemic, and to welcome tourists into our city while asking locals to limit their activity, makes no sense.  I understand some will disagree, but it is the responsible course of action. The president has asked for 15 days of no action. Bringing folks into our area from all over is not something that should be happening right now. Our core responsibility is to try our best to ensure the safety of our citizens, and this action will help do just that.

Many of our local tour operators had already shut down, and I want to take this opportunity and say thank you, we are grateful for you. We love our tour companies and will welcome and celebrate the day we can have tourists visit our beautiful city. Unfortunately, today is not that day. This will be temporary, and as soon as we can get our arms around this issue, we will open back up! God willing, sooner rather than later!

I am proud of our community’s willingness to address this, and their understanding, as we all work through it. As we move forward with a better understanding of the issues and the effects, we need to be able to formulate a way to fight this virus, while maintaining a functioning society and economy. Right now, sacrifice and immediate drastic action is needed.  Longer term a plan based on facts must happen.  We are dedicated to make sure Crystal River is responsible from a health standpoint, as well as dedicated to getting life back and our economy going as soon as possible!

I want to thank the citizens of Crystal River for their support and understanding. It is an absolute honor to be a part of this community.  On behalf of city council and city staff we thank you all. God bless.

Joe Meek is the mayor of Crystal River.

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