CHIPLEY - Tray Hawkins, Chairman of the Washington County, Florida Board of County Commissioners, called to order a special meeting at the Washington County Emergency Operations Center in Wausau on Tuesday morning accompanied by many of the County Commissioners, Constitutional Officers, Washington County Sheriff and other County department heads.

The purpose of the meeting was to adopt an official State of Emergency for Washington County, prepared and officially read by Washington County Public Safety Director Lynne Abel.

Citing the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Abel read the declaration adopting a local state of emergency for the next seven days, from 10 a.m. on March 17 through 10 a.m. on March 24, allowing Washington County officials to adopt safety and health measures in line with state and federal guidelines.

According to the county, The COVID-19 pandemic was referenced as the stimulus for the state of emergency, allowing public works and public safety officials to enter into contracts, employ workers, rent equipment, purchase supplies, enlist volunteers, and enter into other agreements to ensure the health, safety and well-being of Washington County residents, and to protect lives and property.

During this state of emergency the County may waive certain regulatory stipulations to more aggressively and effectively address issues as they arise, as a result of the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews said that this measure simply makes it easier to procure equipment and supplies if and when a situation arises as a result of this emergency.

“We want our citizens to understand that we are in no more danger today than we were yesterday”, Hawkins said. “We are still following the lead of the Center for Disease Control and state agencies. This simply allows us to be able to react quickly if needed going forward.”

Washington County Public Safety Director Lynne Abel followed up by saying, '“at this time we do not anticipate activating the Emergency Operations Center.”

Hawkins said it was important that citizens not be alarmed by this measure and know the county is paying close attention to the situation and will be delivering information to the public as it is available.