It has been nearly a month since our Mayor declared a local state of emergency due to the threat COVID-19 poses to our community. The impact of the virus has been so swift, as one commentator wrote, “It seems like we fell asleep in one world and woke up in another.” This pandemic has put many things into perspective. The facts are sobering. At this time, nearly 375,000 Americans have officially contracted COVID-19, and the number of people in the U.S. who have died is approaching 10,000 with many more expected. The Florida Department of Health has now recorded more than 14,500 cases in the state and ranks Hollywood and neighboring city zip codes as second in the state with more than 700 cases.
The forecasts and statistics make our everyday differences pale into insignificance against the impact of this pandemic. Daily practices and routines have been dramatically altered. Protective measures, aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, have damaged our once healthy economy. Freedoms we take for granted have been curtailed through executive orders and recommendations, yet the need to exercise discipline and social responsibility may be the difference between life and death.
Despite the shadow the COVID-19 pandemic has cast over our community, there have been extraordinary “points of light” that we have all seen—in our healthcare providers who are working around the clock; in workers in essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies who continue to assist us; in the non-profit organizations and volunteers who are providing food to families and services to businesses in need; and in the educators and school workers who are now caring for their students by holding classes online and packing up daily meals for them. These are some of the many examples of humanity at its best, when the country is facing its worst.
Among our City family, I, along with our Mayor, Vice Mayor and City Commissioners, have had the privilege of witnessing the tireless and dedicated work of our first responders, firefighters and police officers, who are on the front lines every day, risking exposure to COVID-19 as they selflessly serve and protect us. That satisfaction and pride extends to the many City employees who are continuing to work to keep Hollywood operating under these conditions. It demonstrates how much they care about our City and our residents. It gives me great pride to work alongside them during this unprecedented time.
We want to assure you that we will continue to work to protect the health and safety of this community and to restore our quality of life when this is all over. We will all eventually wake up in the world we knew not too long ago – a world where we can hug and kiss our loved ones, visit our parents and friends without risk, and breathe freely. Please continue to be safe and be strong.
The events of the past few weeks are unprecedented. As we all have seen, this crisis is evolving daily. It has reshaped the way organizations like the Hollywood Police Department must work to serve and protect the public. Throughout this public health emergency, the Command Staff and I have been coordinating with other law enforcement agencies, City officials, the Fire/Rescue Department and our medical partners as new information becomes available. We’ve been able to quickly adjust plans and accommodate changes, sometimes within hours. The steps and measures that have been put in place at the State, County and Local levels were implemented with the health and safety of all residents, visitors and employees in mind. Despite the rapid evolution, our Hollywood police officers and all of our support personnel have readily adapted new protocols and taken on new assignments, while reflecting the professionalism and dedication they have in their role to uphold law and order in this community. I want to thank all of our residents and business owners who have complied with these changes, recognizing we are facing an extraordinary time, and your compliance helps make our jobs easier.
So many of you have reached out to wanting to support our officers and our department. Your gratitude for our service and concern for our officers is deeply appreciated. Each of our officers has been outfitted with personal protective equipment (PPE) that they are utilizing to help keep them safe and healthy, so that they can continue to do their work as law enforcement officers. Our officers are following social distancing recommendations and avoiding contact unless necessary in the line of duty. Even with these precautions, this virus has already touched our department, reminding us that we are all at risk. We are fortunate that those employees who’ve been impacted are on the road to full recovery, especially as we mourn the loss of a Broward Sheriff’s Deputy this past weekend and consider the tens of thousands across globe who’ve lost their battle with COVID-19. We cannot risk becoming complacent or careless.
I have been reminding all of our Hollywood police officers and staff to take care of themselves, not only physically, but emotionally. I encourage all of our residents to do the same. We all have family, loved ones and friends we are concerned about. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help. You can call Broward 2-1-1 or the national disaster distress hotline, 1-800-985-5990, which is set up to assist people who are struggling during this difficult time.
You should know, the collective steps our community is taking to contain this virus will make a difference. Hang tough and know that better days are ahead.
Just 30 days ago, I never would have imagined the harsh impact that would be placed in our daily lives as we battle this invisible enemy. I stand firm in my belief that as First Responders, we are the safety net of our society and communities, the last line of defense. Our personnel are suiting up with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as if responding to a structure fire on each and every call, every day, 24/7. They are taking these necessary precautions not only for their own safety, but for the safety of their families and the community they serve.
We remain one of the only departments in the entire nation to have all of our rescue units capable of being COVID-19 response and transport units. Many departments are unfortunately experiencing large quarantines and isolations of their personnel due to a lack of PPE because of the magnitude and severity of this crisis. We continue to focus on prevention to minimize the spread of infection of all personnel with the hopes of having a minimal impact to our force and city. Early on, we took the lead in ensuring our personnel respond to emergency calls in a safe manner to during this crisis. We instituted taking of temperatures and medically screening our personnel twice daily to reduce the possibility of spreading any infections. We have sufficient quantities of PPE on hand to not only provide for Fire’s safety, but to protect our fellow first responders in the Police Department and provide for other essential City employees.
I am extremely grateful to our City Manager and Deputy City Manager who supported taking all necessary precautions early on. Due to this, we have been able to provide our personnel with P100 respirators (thus eliminating the need to change N95 masks repeatedly), full body suits with face shields, and disinfecting units at every fire station which allow us to thoroughly disinfect stations and apparatuses daily and after every call.
We have had just one member diagnosed with the virus and I’m heartened to report he is out of the hospital and feeling a lot better. Throughout this crisis, we have been very fortunate to have a partnership with Memorial Regional Hospital and most importantly and significantly, with our Medical Director, Dr. Randy Katz, who also serves as the Director of Emergency Medical Services at the hospital. He has been instrumental in providing information, leadership and support for our personnel, guidance towards our medical responses, and recommendations on PPE.
The professionalism, bravery, integrity and resourcefulness that I have witnessed these past few weeks extends beyond our frontline personnel. Every division of the Department has assisted in our response from ordering supplies to delivering PPE to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to developing new protocols and policies and helping with public safety and enforcing closure orders.
Unfortunately during times of crisis, we see the best and worst of human kind. So many have stepped up to the challenge working collectively as a team and looking out for each other. We are all in this together, and united we will succeed over this virus, each doing our part to bring it to an end.