Please Note: Due to the nature of information being released frequently regarding COVID-19, changes at the local, state and federal level may have occurred since answers were provided.
In attendance of the May 27 COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall were City Manager Matthew Morton, Fire Chief Jerry Forte, FDOH-Flagler Administrator Bob Snyder, FDOH-Flagler Medical Director Dr. Stephen Bickel, and Flagler County Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord.
WATCH THE VIRTUAL TOWN HALL HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7GUrN3QuNc
Mr. Snyder provided an update from the health department. He said there are 178 total cases, and of those, 141 are Palm Coast residents. Number of deaths remain at four. He also touched on the positivity rate. You can listen to his complete opening remarks which includes testing and testing of nursing and assisted living facilities from 1:44 to 6:05.
Dr. Bickel mentioned that this is a transition time because many decisions will be made going forward regarding reopening. Their plan is to look at early trends and key measures.
Chief Forte then highlighted that it's been 70+ days of navigating Coronavirus. As we continue through reopening phases, Capt. Ascone has been working with City departments on how to phase in their reopening. Each department is devising its own plan without a timeline for a day that may come in the future. They have been working with guidelines from state and federal authorities. It includes how workers will operate to adhere to social distancing requirements. Golf and tennis facilities have opened successfully. At the fire station, they have reduced training and being out in the public as a precaution. They are planning what training to do and how to be involved in the community going forward. His remarks can be heard from 7:15 to 12:15.
Mr. Lord then provided an update for Flagler County. He said the county is doing well. They key is wearing masks and social distancing. He said people still need to keep protections in place. He touched on impacts to businesses and government. He also said they are shifting focus to hurricane season and what that means for shelters. His comments can be heard from 13:48 to 16:57.
In terms of reopening, what surveillance measures are in place for the health department?
How will the spread of COVID-19 be contained going forward?
Mr. Snyder said going forward we will have to learn to live with the virus but keep the transmission at bay. One of the most important tools to use will be data. They have been looking at the positivity rate among other key data points. Monitoring all the data allows them to make decisions going forward.
Dr. Bickel then provided insight on timing of incubation periods, asymptomatic cases and how all of that affects testing. They are using all of the data to show them what the virus is doing. They are also looking at how effective their efforts in public health are. He also talked about contact tracing and how that works and why timing is important with knowing when someone gets a positive test. He said they are getting an even quicker turnaround time on tests in recent weeks which is helping. Mask wearing is also making a difference. It's also important to not get overwhelmed with cases or contact tracing won't be as successful. They also want social distancing measures to be as effective as possible and as minimally intrusive as possible. He spoke about how outdoor transmission is way less than indoor. They also want to identify hot spots. He said overall they are trying to target the things that are most effective and least bothersome to people and lead our lives.
(Please listen to the full discussion to these two questions which can be heard from 17:30 to 28:10)
Please discuss ongoing testing efforts including locations and timelines. Why does testing continue to remain important and necessary? Do we anticipate testing changing during hurricane season?
Mr. Lord said testing is available at multiple locations in Flagler County. Within Flagler are some urgent care centers, some doctor's offices, Monday through Friday at the health department by appointment, and by appointment at the Daytona State College Palm Coast campus Tuesday through Thursday. There are also two facilities run through the state in Duval and Orange counties and you do not need an appointment. It is the intention of Flagler County to offer community testing for the foreseeable future. The Daytona State College site will be driven by demand. Call 386-313-4200 for info on that site.
Mr. Snyder said criteria for testing has changed and loosened. So now if you feel like you're at risk or you've been exposed, you can get tested. At the health department location, they are more focused on health care workers, first responders and those who have more than one symptom.
(Please listen to the full discussion to this question which can be heard from 28:32 to 33:33)
Should residents wear a mask in public? Provide some examples of what this means when being in stores, restaurants, walking on the beach or out in the neighborhood.
Dr. Bickel said if you're going to be inside, leave the mask on. If you're outside on a hike, then not necessary. Evidence keeps mounting that masks are effective. He said with masks you are protecting others and some yourself. He also said people should realize that Flagler County is doing well with this. And so as we're reopening, we can keep going as long as cases keep low and protective measures are followed.
(Please listen to the full discussion to this question which can be heard from 34:06 to 41:04)
Can the general public get masks from the City?
The City has a supply of masks available. Please submit a case through Palm Coast Connect so we can coordinate how to get you the mask and make sure it's handled accordingly. If we run out, it puts you in a virtual line to get one when more become available.
I am planning to visit my house in Palm Coast during the summer. I reside in NJ. Is there a mandatory quarantine? If so, what does it entail?
Chief Forte and Mr. Lord provided some insight on this. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Louisiana - there are currently executive orders in place where people must self-isolate if they come to Florida from one of these states.
(Please listen from 42:50 to 45:34)
My wife and I are having a house built in Palm Coast. It probably won't be ready until August or September. Our plan was to sell our home here in Maryland and get a short term rental until the house is complete. Are there any exceptions being made for people who are moving to FL, and not just vacationing?
Chief Forte provided some insight on this.
(Please listen to the full answer from 45:45 to 47:00)
With the Governor's Let Kids Play announcement, what are the plans for youth sports, groups, camps, etc?
Chief Forte said they are looking at that. They are looking at plans of groups of 8 with 2 supervisors, and what the camp may be doing. They are looking at what national groups are doing to see what their guidance is. But for now, they are going off basic social distancing guidelines in the planning process.
Mr. Lord said that all public players are all trying to work together and operate similarly and have similar concerns. They are also waiting on guidance from national associations, as Chief Forte mentioned. He spoke about the guidance from other groups.
(Please listen to the full answer from 47:15 to 52:29)
Hurricane season is approaching and with that can you elaborate about the sales tax holiday, what the plans are for the disaster guide and dissemination of information, and how will the City communicate during hurricane season.
We will continue to update Palm Coast Connect and the Virtual Town Halls with information. We also want to make the disaster guide digital. The sales tax holiday begins Friday. For more information, please visit https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/belocalbuylocal to see the list of items and remember to buy them locally.
(Please listen to the full answer from 52:29 to 55:32)
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