Lee County says ‘no’ to Friends COVID protocols

October 28, 2021
By Staff Report

The Friends of Boca Grande Community Center has been notified by Jesse Lavender, Director of Lee County Parks and Recreation, that the previously announced health & safety protocol cannot be approved by the County. 

The Friends policy asked all patrons 12 and older that are attending ticketed indoor programs to:

• Provide proof of a negative COVID test, OR

• voluntarily provide proof of COVID vaccination, and;

• wear masks when indoors

According to the letter received by Friends, “the County cannot recommend approving a ‘voluntary’ proof of vaccine process wherein access to County facilities is prohibited unless proof of a different medical procedure (negative test) is provided.” The County has requested Friends to follow the county policy, which is to notify everyone to please wear a mask. Marta Howell, Executive Director for Friends, was surprised by the letter.  “We did quite a bit of research before announcing this policy, including running it up the flagpole with Lee County. 

Christina Pushaw, Press Secretary for Ron Desantis
Christina Purshaw,
Press Secretary for Gov. Ron Desantis

We thought we had a green light!”  She went on to say that Friends’ policy followed what the arts organizations are doing in Sarasota, and in many places around the state, and cited a recent news article about the Governor’s Executive Order “SB 2006 only prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from customers as a condition of entry or service,” said Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary. “If concert-goers can provide a negative COVID test instead of a vaccine passport, that is acceptable under the law. People who want to show proof of vaccination instead of a COVID test are free to do that. It just cannot be compelled.”

Members of the Board of Friends were disappointed in the action taken by the County.  The good news is that last year Friends developed the ability to live-stream programs and broadcast to patrons watching from home using the Friends@Home platform.  Kay Wagner, Chair of the Board, said “If anyone feels the least bit uncomfortable attending live events, they can easily exchange their tickets for virtual tickets and watch from home.  The Friends staff is ready to walk you through creating your Friends@Home account and help you set-up your device or television to view the livestreams.

For further information, call the Friends office at 941-964-0827.