On March 17, 2020, the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners adopted a Resolution declaring a Local State of Emergency. The limitation of an emergency declaration is seven days, which may be extended in seven day increments. After a motion, the Board voted to extend the local state of emergency.
On March 19, 2020, Okaloosa County Commissioners discussed County emergency protective Measures related to COVID-19. At that meeting the Commission enacted several emergency protective measures primarily related to the beach. The need to consider other protective measures was raised for other county facilities, but was delayed until the March 24, 2020 meeting to allow staff additional time on how to best address all County facilities.
Effective March 25, 2020 through April 30, 2020, the following County properties and facilities are closed:
- Athletic fields and courts; Exception: open space fields designated by the Public Works Director for non-organized, general public recreational use only.
- Baker Arena; Exception: individual boarders and riders located on the property.
- Camping and RV facilities
- Community Centers
- Public bathrooms
- Playground related equipment
- Parks, if effectively all facilities within the park are closed.
Trails, boardwalks, passive parks and boat ramps will remain open.
Regarding private beaches & Crab Island
At the same March 19th meeting, the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners decided to close public beaches, beach accessways, certain beach parking areas, beachfront parks, limited the use of the pier, and suspended beach vending permits and Crab Island vending permits.
Although these were big steps in preventing the spread of the virus, additional measures have since been taken by other local governments and the State which seek to prevent larger gatherings and community transmission.
Okaloosa County has been in touch with the National Park Service regarding Crab Island. The NPS gave the county to okay to close Crab Island if deemed necessary. After much discussion on whether it was the right choice to close Crab Island, the board chose to keep Crab Island open for the time-being.
Regarding private beaches, that is, those beaches behind many hotels and resorts, the board voted to exercise their emergency authority to close all private beaches on Okaloosa Island. That is, all gulf-front beaches will be closed effective March 25, 2020 through April 30, 2020.
The County strongly encourages:
- Closure of all private community centers, meeting rooms and other places of gathering;
- All pharmacies and grocery stores within the County to reserve a two-hour window, preferably upon opening, for those individuals over 60 years of age;
- The lodging industry to work with our visitors in offering refunds and rescheduling of trips.