Commissioners stress they have not used their political positions as basis to ‘jump in line’ ahead of other vaccine-eligible county residents
When Sarasota County Commissioner Nancy Detert was absent from the board’s first two meetings of the year — on Jan. 12 and 13 — Chair Alan Maio informed the public that she was “a little under the weather.”
As it turns out, Detert had contracted COVID-19.
Taking what she called “a moment of personal privilege” at the start of the commission’s regular meeting on Jan. 26, Detert called her infection “a rather startling experience.” She thought she had a cold, she said, because she was just sneezing and coughing. “That was it,” she noted of her symptoms; she did not even run a fever.
When Detert called family members to report that she was not going to attend a birthday party for her son, Detert added, her daughter-in-law was the one who suggested Detert get tested for the virus.
Since she never had taken the opportunity to get tested, Detert continued, she drove to the Sarasota Kennel Club just off University Parkway in north Sarasota. By the time she returned to her Venice home 45 minutes later, she added, she had the news that the test was positive.
“It was a great experience,” Detert said of the process at that drive-through facility, which is located at 5400 Bradenton Road.
“I feel very lucky and blessed that I had very mild symptoms [for two to three days],” she continued, noting that she did have “extreme exhaustion,” as well.
If she had not taken her daughter-in-law’s advice, Detert added, she potentially could have infected someone else just by walking around in her neighborhood.
Detert also confessed to feeling guilty, even though she was not certain how she contracted the virus. “I wear my mask; I social distance.”
“Sometimes you can do everything right and just walk by the wrong person at the wrong moment and get infected,” Detert said.
Detert advised members of the public that, even if they have mild symptoms, as she did, they should get tested.
Then Detert took a bit more time to point out that she and her colleagues have received many emails accusing them of getting vaccinated ahead of members of the public, just because they are elected officials.
“Certainly, I’m the target demographic” for vaccination, she continued. (As Chuck Henry, the county’s Health Officer, pointed out during comments to the board members a short while later, frontline health care workers and those Florida residents and snowbirds who are age 65 and older are eligible to get vaccinated at this point. See the related article in this issue.)
Detert stressed to the public, “I’m in line with the rest of you. Nobody up here [on the commission dais] is jumping the line. … We’re all in the same line you’re in.”
“You could probably email your congressman, your state senators and state representatives,” she added, urging them to make certain the state of Florida is getting its fair share of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“There’s three people up here that are 65 or older,” Chair Alan Maio noted after she concluded her comments. “Then we have two younger fellas.” None of those commissioners eligible for the vaccine — or their spouses or close friends — has received a shot, he emphasized in support of Detert’s statement.
“We get some pretty nasty emails,” Maio added.
Commissioner Michael Moran told Detert, “We’re super glad you’re back.” Then he joked about being considered a “young fella,” along with Commissioner Christian Ziegler.
Although Maio did not name Commissioner Ron Cutsinger in the vaccine-eligible group, Moran’s comment made that clear.