On Monday, June 8, the St. Augustine City Commission unanimously upheld its decision to postpone the annual fireworks display, Fireworks Over the Matanzas, to a date to be determined at a future commission meeting. This decision, in conformity with the Florida Governor’s directives and the cancellation of surrounding jurisdictions, was made with the health and safety of the public in mind.
City Manager John Regan provided a memo to the commission with an outline of updated information, such as the governor’s phasing policy of reopening, current health statistics, safety guidelines, and the most recent fireworks decisions of surrounding coastal jurisdictions.
Several individuals appeared in person in The Alcazar Room as well as called via telephone to offer public comment. In addition, public comments submitted via email were read into the public record by the city clerk.
“Fireworks Over the Matanzas attracts thousands of visitors every year and is valued by our local businesses, as well as our residents,” said St. Augustine Mayor Tracy Upchurch. “With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases reported in Florida in mind, and with a heavy heart, we simply must postpone this year’s event for the safety and health of our community.”
Read City Manager John Regan’s memo below:
“On May 11, 2020, the City Commission unanimously decided to postpone the annual fireworks display, Fireworks Over the Matanzas, possibly to a date in September. Subsequently, it was brought to my attention that I had misrepresented the status of Daytona Beach and Jacksonville Beach, and that information was a factor in your decision. Therefore, in light of the significance of this decision on our community, I suggested the City Commission reconvene at a later date to take into consideration the most current and up-to-date information, including the decisions of surrounding cities and counties.
As of June 5, 2020, the following decisions have been made by surrounding jurisdictions:
- City of Jacksonville – will hold expanded fireworks with no associated community event
- City of Fernandina Beach – will hold fireworks, but no associated event
- City of Key West – will hold fireworks
- City of Jacksonville Beach – postponed to New Years City of Orange Park – postponed to Labor Day City of Ormond Beach – postponed to Labor Day
- Altamonte Springs – postponed to Labor Day
- Naval Station Mayport – canceled
- City of Palatka – canceled
- Flagler County – canceled
- City of Flagler Beach – canceled
- City of Daytona Beach – canceled City of Orlando – canceled; televised virtual fireworks tribute
As of Friday, June 5, we began Phase 2 of the reopening of the State of Florida, as directed by Governor Ron DeSantis, in Executive Order 20-139. Section 2 (B) states that all persons in Florida are encouraged to avoid congregating in groups larger than 50 persons. While this allows for the opening of additional entertainment facilities, such as movie theaters, concert halls, auditoriums, etc., it still imposes capacity restrictions and social distancing recommendations and protocols as issued by the CDC and OSHA. This order is in effect with no expiration date.
Medical experts have predicted increased cases of COVID-19 as an expected result of re opening and holding to the phasing recommendations is key to managing the risk of that increase, In St. Johns County, since May 11, we have seen an increase in cases, but not anything that would suggest a risk of overloading our hospital and supporting healthcare system. At a state level, on May 11, Florida has 40,982 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 7,224 hospitalizations and 1,735 deaths. As of Monday, June 8 there were 63,938 confirmed cases with 10,942 hospitalizations and 2,700 deaths, with an increase in volume of cases every day. On May 11, in St. Johns County, there were 222 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 36 hospitalizations and 4 deaths. As of Monday, June 8, there were 279 confirmed cases in St. Johns County with 42 hospitalizations and 6 deaths.
Historically, Fireworks Over the Matanzas, the city’s annual 4th of July celebration, draws tens of thousands of visitors. In addition to the fireworks display, we offer a musical concert in the Plaza de la Constitucion as part of the day’s entertainment.
I would like to reiterate the framework that was inherent to your May 11 deliberation:
- Potential increased crowds due to the cancellation of fireworks in the surrounding coastal jurisdictions.
- Increased demand on St. Augustine Police and Fire Departments, and additional public safety and law enforcement agencies from neighboring jurisdictions, in anticipation of the
compression impact by having the only coastal fireworks display.
- No expectation of enforcing social distancing standards.
- No expectation of enforcing capacity restrictions at bars and restaurants.
No new information has come forward that would materially change the basis of your May 11 decision.”
Questions may be directed to Melissa Wissel, Communications Manager, at 904.825.1053. More information, including City Manager John Regan’s memo, is available at www.CityStAug.com.