SARASOTA –– A nearly empty county commission chambers. Public speakers isolated in an adjacent room. Commissioners and staff well separated. The public microphone being wiped down after every speaker.
The COVID-19 coronavirus brought unusual changes to the March 24 meeting of the Sarasota County commissioners as County Administrator Jonathan Lewis instituted changes to maintain the social distancing recommended by public health experts.
Commissioners apparently noted the somberness of the moment.
In an unusual departure from the scripted agenda, Commission Chairman Mike Moran noted it was a “unique day.”
“We live in a new world,” Moran then read from a prepared statement. “Times like this are when structured leadership is needed. This may take longer than we like, but we’ll get through it.”
Jon Mast, CEO of the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry, probably summed up the situation best.
“It’s very surreal this morning, being held in another room then coming into this sparse chamber,” Mast told commissioners during a brief open to the public section of the meeting.