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.
QUESTIONS FROM VIRTUAL TOWN HALL - APRIL 22, 2020 (VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPF8jTV5E8o&feature=emb_title)
The City of Palm Coast Virtual Town Hall that occurred on April 22, 2020 included Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, Palm Coast City Manager Matthew Morton, Palm Coast Fire Chief Jerry Forte, Florida Department of Health-Flagler Dr. Stephen Bickel, and FDOH-Flagler Administrator Bob Snyder.
At the beginning of the town hall, Mayor Holland highlighted two initiatives to serve our community and engage our neighbors, 'Rise Up Palm Coast' and 'Feed Palm Coast.' Information on those can be found:
Then, Mr. Snyder from the health department gave an update on the local cases and other details relating to COVID-19.
Following that, Chief Forte gave an update on the fire department's role, specifically that of Capt. Tom Ascone who is leading the City's efforts to manage resources and serve as a liaison between the City and County on the emergency response to COVID-19. Ascone is working with local leaders to develop a plan on how to reopen the City.
TOPIC: CITY REOPENING MEASURES AND BUSINESSES QUESTIONS
Do you think reopening our city is a smart move right now? Are numbers have been staying low because we are staying in? What measures are being taking to keep it this way when we reopen back up? What's being done for the families with small children that can't be left at home alone because of the no school for the rest of the year?
Answer 1: (Answer at 24:00)
Chief Forte explained that much of the decision making will be coming from the state level. Gov. DeSantis' executive order 20-91 expires on April 30. What it's going to look like after that is unknown. What we're doing is, if he follows the national framework for phase 1, what's the City going to look like… what are we going to do from that point on until it gets to phase 2 and how long is that gonna take place. We don't know how long phase 1 will be. Timing depends on the criteria of phase 1 and those benchmarks have to be met before going into phase 2.
Mr. Snyder then elaborated and said from a public health standpoint, they would be looking at data such as hospitalizations, number of cases trending downward, etc.
Dr. Bickel followed by saying this situation is like an experiment that every country has to deal with carefully. It's a delicate process that will have to be worked through.
Mayor Holland added that each community is different. As for Palm Coast, the City is limited in resources and while we are prepared for emergencies that arise, the day-to-day operations of the city are managed using the lowest possible cost to residents. That's a balance in order to not tax the system. Additionally, what works for one community - based on conversations there - may not be best for another community. The City has enacted restrictions based on how the virus spreads and its severity in the community. City leaders will continue to work on reopening plans with the health department, but there won't be dates to these plans because of how unpredictable things can be.
Mr. Morton also provided some input on the decision-making process and how they are coming from a place of strength, not fear, and involve analyzing data and managing resources to ensure the best response.
***This was discussed at length and can be heard from 24:00 to 39:13***
We need to be OPEN for business NOW. When are you opening businesses and what businesses will be first to open?
Answer 2: (Answer at 40:05)
Referring back to question 1, there is no set date at the moment on opening businesses. Mayor Holland stated that in terms of the types of businesses, a reopen may be based on a phased approach.
Mr. Snyder added that he and other health officers recently asked during a call with other emergency leaders statewide for guidance with regards to the economy. The request has been made and they hope to share that statewide and to counties.
Chief Forte then mentioned that for those businesses with elderly clients, there's an opportunity for the City to work with people in business to develop a questionnaire that they need to call these folks and ask the questions on how they feel, how they are, and what is their condition before businesses should go back to people's homes. So that can be a proactive measure and ask the businesses to come up with their own questionnaire on how they deal with certain members of the community when they respond to their houses for services.
In terms of reopening, generally, the timing will be different depending on the business.
Dr. Bickel then discusses the challenges of reopening and the trends of other countries that dealt with reopening following a previous public health crisis.
I am a small business/sole proprietor that does not have a business account at my bank. Who in Flagler is helping these kind of businesses get a PPP loan?
Please check the Business Resource Center page on Palm Coast Connect for business resources, https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/business-resource-center, and also check with the SBA as well.
TOPIC: CASES, TESTING AND MASKS
How many residents in Flagler County have been tested? How many tests are available for residents to be tested? Are you planning on making wearing masks a MUST out in the community?
Mr. Snyder said 1,054 people have been tested in Flagler County. There are numerous testing facilities in Flagler, but there are criteria involved: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/covid-19-testing-locations.
At 52:25, Mr. Snyder says the recommendation now is to wear a mask or facial covering when out in public, such as the grocery store. Dr. Bickel says it is strongly encouraged to wear a mask when out in public.
How in-depth is the contact tracing? Will you share the places we should avoid to protect ourselves? Do you need help with contact tracing?
Answer 5: (Answer at 50:30)
The Florida Department of Health is very focused on this. People who test positive - they find out who they've had contact with and see if they meet criteria for testing and stay in contact with them. Listen to the video for more on this answer.
What is the population of Flagler County? What % of the population has been diagnosed with the virus? What percentage have recovered from the virus?
Answer 6: (Answer at 55:50)
Mr. Snyder says they have requested that the state health department let counties know how many people have recovered from the virus. The state is processing that and locally, they hope to have the numbers soon.
Will there be testing for all to find out if we have the virus or antibodies?
Answer 7: (Answer at 56:30)
Right now, diagnostic testing is available. There are numerous testing facilities in Flagler, but there are criteria involved: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/covid-19-testing-locations.
As for testing for antibodies, Dr. Bickel discusses this at 59:00.
TOPIC: ADDITIONAL CITY QUESTIONS
When will vacation rentals in Palm Coast be able to be rented again?
Answer 8: (Answer at 1:05:33)
Gov. DeSantis will be coming out with suggestions and orders on this. The City is working on a reopening strategy, as mentioned earlier. So more to come.
Considering the stay-at-home requirement and frequent hand washing and extra cleaning around the home, could we get a break on the water bill until the stay-at-home is lifted?
Please see the following: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/news-news/4602/city-of-palm-coast-utility-announcement.
Why do we have to sign in every time we want to use Palm Coast Connect? Can't we have a function to stay signed in? Or a facial recognition sign-in?
The City appreciates this question and we are working with staff to discover a sign-in feature to stay signed in.
Closing comments followed the answer to question 10.