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 6, 2020 Virtual Town Hall were Mayor Milissa Holland, City Manager Matthew Morton, Fire Chief Jerry Forte, AdventHealth COO Wally De Aquino, President of Diagnostic Solutions Labs Jeff Ingersoll, FDOH-Flagler Medical Director Dr. Stephen Bickel and FDOH-Flagler PIO Gretchen Smith.
AdventHealth COO Wally De Aquino (at 14:20) provided an update on behalf of the hospital system. He said right now they are focused on reopening efforts and also being prepared for any possible new surge in the future. They are taking precautions for the upcoming winter in terms of flu season. Additionally, Centra Care is offering business consulting regarding reopening. They are also continuing testing. He also mentioned the appreciation for nurses on National Nurses Day and their important role in our community.
Gretchen Smith provided an update from the Florida Department of Health - Flagler County including the number of cases, contact tracing development and how the organization is handling this time.
Chief Jerry Forte provided an update (at 18:50) for the City. He began with touching on the reopening information and said the City is adhering to the Governor's plan, including examining what this means for City parks. Chief Forte and Mayor Holland also discussed the Incident Action Plan (IAP) and how that fits into emergency planning and coordination.
WATCH the Virtual Town Hall here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36Dc5rP0Qiw
Why isn't the golf course open as all the other golf courses in Palm Coast? When will you open the golf course?
Mr. Morton said the City has not been in a position to safely open the golf course. The team is looking into how to open it including new policies, new practices, play requirements, new tee times, cleaning precautions, etc. Listen to the video for his full answer. (at 30:00)
What are the testing options in Palm Coast? What about antibody tests?
Mr. De Aquino said in terms of antibody tests (at 32:45), they have been studying how effective it is and if it makes sense to offer it to the community. As for virus testing options, generally, Centra Care is still available, and also the drive up option at the Ormond Centra Care. Residents can also go to Daytona State College. Please refer to AdventHealth for hours and appointment requirements. Listen to the full response for more.
The Flagler County Health Department is also testing for the virus.
I would like to see a discussion on the curves for the cases in Flagler County based on the current testing. The important number is the percentage of those tested that are positive. From April 24th through April 29th that number was about 9.1%. From April 30 to May 4, the number has been slowly declining, and on May 4 it's 7.7%. This looks encouraging, but it can always go back up if we increase testing to the numbers the medical personnel think are required. So, I'd appreciate a discussion on this trend, and then a second discussion on how far behind you think we are on testing, and what are the plans to get testing up to a level where it should be, that is how many people should we be testing each day in Flagler County and when will this be done.
Dr. Bickel discussed trends (at 37:12) and how data is needed for that. With testing, he explained what the goal is statewide and the progress on that. He also explained what the percentage positive means and the takeaways. Listen to his full response in the video.
Mayor Holland then asked Mr. Ingersoll for an update on testing. Mr. Ingersoll touched on turnaround time and collection equipment needed for tests. Listen to his answer at 43:30.
Has the Governor's guidance impacted our strategy to open up Palm Coast?
Chief Forte said it was the foundation for the plan (at 45:20). He elaborates on this in the video. Watch for the full answer.
Mr. De Aquino also provided insight as to the hospital adjusting to the new requirements as set by the Governor and what that means for patients to ensure everyone's safety. Listen to his discussion at 49:20.
Are the community leaders concerned that so many people seem to resume the normal activities and behaviors without using precautions and recognizing that we are not out of the woods? I am concerned with all the children and babies out and not being aware of the need for social distancing and safe practices?
Dr. Bickel provided an example to explain the answer. He also said this is a tough situation with challenges. He also talked about the spread factor and how that relates to masks.
When are the gyms and dentist offices going to open up? I see in other states they already have opened them - when is that going to happen for Palm Coast?
Chief Forte pointed to the Governor's phases on this regarding nail salons and gyms. Please listen at 56:45 for this discussion.
Mayor Holland then pointed a question to the health department about businesses reopening and the health department's role in this - how is it determined what is appropriate under the Governor's order (at 59:15). This led into Question 7.
In terms of the virus spreading, how can people continue to protect themselves when businesses open - is it by masks, social distancing and cleaning of equipment? (This question is a summary of several questions submitted regarding masks worn in public by workers at local businesses and residents out and about in the community.)
Dr. Bickel said (at 1:01:05) that as a community, it's important to be mindful of behaviors that will reduce the spread. He elaborates on studies and actions and how effective they can be and the responsibility of patrons.
Can you please share the statistics on the recoveries from COVID-19? The data that I have been able to locate only shows things like total cases, number of hospitalizations, and number of new cases. I have not been able to locate things like the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 and an average number of days to recovery.
Ms. Smith said that there have been discussions on this. The CDC is developing a statistic on it and they hope to share it soon. She also shared the link to the dashboard showing case information: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/96dd742462124fa0b38ddedb9b25e429
Dr. Bickel elaborated on recoveries and the challenges on these kinds of statistics.
When are our parks going to open, including the Tennis Center? Why have they been closed for so long?
Please listen to Mr. Morton's answer regarding the golf course. (at 30:00)
Why is wearing of face mask not made mandatory if the CDC and most all health experts agree that wearing a mask helps? Positive cases and deaths are still on the increase. What sense does it make to begin relaxing restrictions now? What is the percentage of people that recover from the virus and how is that tracked and determined?
This topic was discussed in the answers questions 7 and 8. Also, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on masks.
In terms of the beaches, can you sunbathe or sit down? Saw tons of that going on, thought it was for just walking, surfing, etc.
Please reach out to Flagler County government for the latest on beach rules.
I am happy that we are able to enjoy our beaches again, but it is upsetting that people (with no masks) choose to congregate and socialize on the narrow walkover steps. We have encountered this several times and when we have asked them politely to move off so that we can walk through while maintaining social distancing, we have been met with rude and snide remarks and refusal to do so. We have been forced to walk between them while they spoke to us the entire time. Can something be posted on the walkovers so that people do not congregate there?
For specific questions about the beach, as they are not in city limits, please reach out to Flagler County government.
Good evening. Does anybody know what the State will do regarding State Park Passes? For example, some people just have an annual pass to one State park, while others might have an annual pass that allows access to all State parks. Will the State extend the expiration date on these annual passes for the amount of time these State parks stay closed? I know some State parks opened up this week, but others remain closed. It would be unfortunate if a person had an annual pass to one of the State parks that remain closed!
Please reach out to the State of Florida Parks at https://www.floridastateparks.org/.
How does the city feel about the 'herd immunity methodology' and directing quarantine restrictions more towards the demographic that this virus targets vs. quarantining the rest of its population? Similar to what Sweden has done.
Please see question 8 from last week: