Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Lake Wales continues to function as close to normal as possible, Emergency Operations Director Joe Jenkins said Tuesday night.
Jenkins, also the city’s fire chief, updated Lake Wales leaders on the latest measures and precautions being taken in light of the national health emergency, including where to go if someone suspects they might be infected.
Most city facilities are closed to the public – like the library and history museum – but city hall remains functioning, although mostly closed to the public as well at the moment.
“City government is still functioning properly, and will continue to do so. The workers are still here. We’re protecting our employees and we’re protecting our citizens. That’s our goal in this whole thing, while keeping all services going for our citizens,” Jenkins said. “It’s almost like a hurricane, without the hurricane. But there’s a storm out there. It’s just not windy right now.”
Utility payments can still be made by phone, mail, internet or drop box, Jenkins noted. Customers can pay online by going to the city’s website www.lakewalesfl.gov and clicking on the utility pay link at the bottom of the home page. Jenkins noted that the customer’s PIN number would be the street number of their house or service location.
Officials previously announced that the city will not cut off utility services due to delinquent payments at this time. While utility payments remain due, and while customers are encouraged to pay for their usage, no services will be cutoff in the foreseeable future. If you have service issues or questions, residents can access the new Utilities Department Customer Service line at 863-676-4775.
Building permits are still being issued, but those in need of help from the planning office are asked to call or email ahead of visiting.
Jenkins also indicated that while there will be no Coronavirus testing sites in Lake Wales, citizens who suspect they may be infected can go to Advent Health Centra Care on Cypress Gardens Boulevard in Winter Haven.
“If you feel like you have symptoms, and want to be tested, you go there. They will screen you for your symptoms,” Jenkins noted. “If they feel during their screening process you don’t meet the criteria, they won’t test you. They’re not going to just test on request.”
He indicated those who do get tested should self-quarantine before results are available, which normally takes about 48 hours.
City Manager Ken Fields added that Advent Health Lake Wales, formerly the Lake Wales Medical Center, has set up a large tent just in case a serious outbreak were to happen locally.
“They were asked by the state to be proactive and set up over flow facilities. It’s a proactive thing,” Fields said. “ The state asked them to do it now so they’re not scrambling in the future. It’s purely precautionary,”
He said he and Jenkins are on regular conference calls with Polk County, the state of Florida and other governmental entities almost on a daily basis.
In addition, the local Chamber of Commerce has started a local conference call for local entities like the Lake Wales Charter Schools system, Care Center and Florida’s Natural to better coordinate their efforts and responses.
Local school students – both charter and public schools students – can get free breakfast and lunch this week at McLaughlin Middle. School. Meals can be picked up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students must be present to get a meal.
Officials also indicated they are looking into ways to hold future commission meetings electronically. The next meeting is set for April 8. The idea is a statewide initiative, and would include a way for the public to continue to have the ability to participate.
Also, on March 13, Mayor Eugene Fultz signed a Declaration of Emergency which will make it easier for the city to obtain additional aid.