Apalachicola commissioners halt lodging

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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The sound of birds chirping is a little louder than usual right now in Apalachicola.

A positive message hangs inside Oyster City Brewing Company in Apalachicola. (WJHG/WECP)

That's because you can't hear the sounds of visitors and locals who normally fill the streets.

City leaders halted short term lodging, meaning the town is emptier.

"So every seven days we're gonna look at that again. You know it basically shut down our motels and hotels and AirBnB type rentals," said Apalachicola Mayor Kevin Begos.

But it's a change many locals and business owners wanted to see.

"I so salute Mayor Kevin Begos and all of the decision makers that were involved in making that decision which I know it was a tough decision to make, but boy was it a smart decision," said Franklin County Resident Debi Jordan.

"I mean it's the right thing. Let's try to nip this in the bud, stay away," said Daniel Itzkovitz, the owner of Tamara's Cafe.

Restaurants are following the guidelines of the CDC and many shops have closed voluntarily.

"So we're just plugging along," said Itzkovitz.

Concerns go beyond visitors potentially bringing COVID-19 here.

"We're so small, and our hospital is so small, you know we want to protect our residents, and you know we don't even really have a big health care system to protect a lot of tourists," said Begos.

While law enforcement officers are working to protect locals, the halt on lodging also helps them protect themselves.

"One of my fears is that if we have to interact with some of the tourists that may be here staying somewhere. They may be from New York or New Jersey that you know one of our staff members could contract the disease and that could be catastrophic for our agency," said Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith.

So locals have one word of advice to visitors coming to the Forgotten Coast.

"I want everybody to stay home, wash their hands, and stay home. Did I say stay home? Stay home," said Itzkovitz.

Franklin County Beaches are also closed.

City officials will revisit the lodging halt again next Wednesday.

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