County officials unify to protect, inform residents of COVID-19

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County officials have a unified plan to protect residents and keep them informed of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s our attempt to make sure that everyone, no matter how secluded, knows exactly what’s going on, at least in Clay County,” said Clay County Commission Chairman Gayward Hendry.

Florida Department of Health in Clay County Administrator Heather Huffman, Director of Emergency Management John Ward and county manager Howard Wanamaker will make frequent announcements of developing details at the EMC near the Clay County Fairgrounds until the coronavirus threat has subsided.

Ward reassured the residents despite the urgency of the current situation, that this is not a hurricane-type event.

“We will not be without power,” Ward said. “We’re not going to have a long time to have to deal with this event. Don’t surge buy. Buy your normal products and allow the system to restock accordingly. The commodities are out there, but we’re seeing a lot of surge buying and that’s what’s causing a lot of the shelves to stay empty the way they are.”

He also encouraged residents to only gather information from official sources such as the CDC, the Florida Dept. of Health websites or the Emergency Management social media pages.

“We currently have three full-time epidemiologists on staff with the Clay County Florida Department of Health,” Huffman said. “We have paired them with an additional staff member in-house that has a master’s in public health, in addition, so they are three two-man teams working and working 10-12-hour days to do case investigations, field calls from providers and hospitals and nursing homes to give correct information.”

Huffman also reiterated the standard message from Gov. Ron DeSantis to regularly wash hands, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and to practice social distancing.

Regional testing sites operated by the federal government are open in Orlando, Jacksonville and Miami.

“Asymptomatic personnel will not be tested,” said Huffman. “Every person that has been categorized and risk assessed according to our disease control staff, that have been high-risk and are symptomatic, we have tested those. No one has been turned away for those. Medium and low risk do not necessarily need testing. It depends on their exposure. Every case is a little bit individualized. We are asking the providers in the community before they send anybody to call our disease control staff and do a triage with them to ask what category does this patient fall in so that we can get them to the appropriate place if they need to be tested or if they need to self-isolate.”

John Cook of Clay County Fire and Rescue said everyone will be tested before being allowed to enter the EMC.

“When they first arrive here, they have to check in here,” said Cook. “We have to take their temperature and go through a series of questions of whether or not they’ve been around someone with COVID-19 or if they’ve been out of the country. The normal measures of being screened. If they have a certain temperature, then they’re not allowed into the facility at this time.

“At that time, we’d notify the administration inside and go through further steps from there.” Any temperature of 100 degrees or more would cause an immediate failure in the screening process.

For more information, the call center at (877) 252-9362, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

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