Emergency manager: COVID-19 likely here for long time

John Ward believes vigilance, patience are the keys to outlasting deadly virus

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Florida is the epicenter of the national COVID-19 pandemic, with continual rises in cases during a resurgence some attribute to a premature reopening of the state following a lockdown this past spring. As of Wednesday morning, the state had nearly 370,000 confirmed cases and more than 5,300 deaths from the virus. The most heavily infected locations are those in the southern and central portions of the state; however, both Duval and Clay counties have seen rises in their COVID-19 numbers.

“The past few days, we’ve kind of seen a plateau from where we were at,” said John Ward, Clay County Director of Emergency Management. “We’re starting to see that temporary plateau; now it’ll probably surge again, but for right now, we’re seeing that temporary plateau with the same steady testing that we’ve had going on.”

There is no shortage of testing or test availability, but there is a daily allotment of tests per day, which can be analyzed by the labs, which are examining the samples with an approximate turnaround time of five to seven business days for the results.

“Right now, the lab capacities are maxed out across the nation.”

Ward insists everyone should remain vigilant, there isn’t a need to panic at this time.

“We’re going to be in this unfortunately for the long haul,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with this in Clay County since March 12; we’re probably still going to be dealing with this next March 12. It’s still going to be with us until we get either an antiviral or herd immunity amongst everybody, which is going to take some time, we’re still going to be dealing with this. We need everybody to try to remain calm, learn, and educate themselves from reliable sources. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. We’re really trying to keep people calm.”

Some of that misinformation refers to statements made by many that masks are ineffective in protecting against COVID-19, or that people who weren’t tested are receiving calls saying that they are positive for the virus. The Center for Disease Control recommends all people two years of age and older wear a cloth face-covering in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are challenging to maintain.

“To me, face coverings are the key. If you look at it, the data is really clear, they work,” said Director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield last week while speaking about how to get schools reopened and children back in classrooms.

Another form of possible misinformation that concerns Ward are the claims that medical facilities are calling people who have never been tested and reporting that they are positive for COVID-19.

He believes that there is some confusion and that these calls may be related to contact tracing. Ward explained that anyone who tests positive gets uploaded into the state database.

“The system, every county health director has access to that,” he said. “They then identify the cases that are in their community, and they begin what’s called contact tracing [within 24-48 hours].” The contact tracing identifies all personnel with whom the infected patient has had extended contact. Those contacts are then notified that they have been in contact with a COVID-19 carrier. It’s these calls that Ward believes may be falsely leading people to think that they are receiving calls that they are positive without having been tested.

Clay County, while it should remain vigilant and take the precautions necessary to minimize the spread of COVID-19, is still in good shape relative to other areas of the state. All members of the community are recommended to take personal measures to try and protect themselves and others from the spread. Another rise in cases is to be expected, but if everyone does their part, the hope is to keep everything manageable.

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