Ward: Clay has steered clear of COVID-19 uptick … so far

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – While the state of Florida continues to see record-level spikes in positive COVID-19 cases, Clay County has, for the most part, managed to steer clear of any major outbreaks.

It still must, however, be prepared.

“We’re working with our folks between emergency management and the health department,” said John Ward, Clay County’s Director of Emergency Management. “And then also working with our hospitals. The entire thing when this first started was to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. Unfortunately, until we get an antivirus, it’s going to continue to be with us.”

Ward said the county is ramping up testing to try and stay ahead of the curve. He also said that a big part of a successful fight against the virus is education and personal responsibility of the residents of the county.

Clay County testing sites include most primary care providers for patients. Residents can also be tested at the department of health in Green Cove Springs.

Duval County and the City of St. Augustine have put an order in place dictating the use of masks in public. Clay County has not.

“We are not going to mandate it, because the enforcement of that is unreal,” Ward said. “right now, we are all just strongly encouraging everybody to wear a mask and keep physically distant. So no, there is no discussion at this time to mandate mask wearing in Clay County.”

Ward pointed out at this point in the pandemic, there’s been a switch in the demographics on who are contracting the virus. He said that now, more young people are becoming positive, although they are often asymptomatic and are not in need of hospitalization. The plus to that, is that often younger carriers of COVID-19 are able to overcome the virus by simply self-quarantining for long enough to allow their bodies to fight off the virus. However, younger people are often less than responsible in their precautionary measure against the virus. They are more often willing to gather in larger than recommended numbers and will forgo masks.

“People have been cooped up for eight weeks,” Ward said. “They want to get out, see their friends, go to parties, go to bars, you know that type of thing. I think the congregate gatherings is what’s causing the spread of this.”

In all, Clay County’s overall numbers are low, due to vigilance, caution, and sound planning and execution. Ward, his staff and Clay residents hope it remains that way.

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