The City of Sarasota today declared a public health emergency in the face of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, which includes two presumptive positive cases in Sarasota County. In a release, the city said that all gatherings within the city limits scheduled to occur on or before March 20, 2020, and likely to attract more than 250 persons are strongly advised to cancel. That directive includes all gatherings managed, permitted or supported by city staff. New special events will not be permitted by the city until further notice. City manager Tom Barwin, in consultation with mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, approved the emergency declaration this morning.    

Organizations that choose to proceed with their events within the city should have screening measures in place to prevent people who have been exposed to COVID-19 from entering and to protect the health and safety of attendees, city officials added.

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, which is owned and operated by the city, will suspend and reschedule performances through March 31. The Sarasota Farmers Market will also be closed on Saturday, March 14. Residents are alsoencouraged to contact local venues and organizers to determine the status of their operations.

During the past two weeks, the city says it has also increased its cleaning and sanitizing of public spaces, focusing on doorknobs, handrails and countertops. Hand sanitizer stations are visible and available at city facilities, and a temporary remote work policy has been instituted for city employees. 

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