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 for the May 13, 2020 Virtual Town Hall were Mayor Milissa Holland, City Manager Matthew Morton, Fire Chief Jerry Forte, Diagnostic Solutions Labs CEO Tony Hoffman, FDOH-Flagler Medical Director Dr. Stephen Bickel, FDOH-Flagler Administrator Bob Snyder and Dr. Vincent DeGennaro.
Mr. Snyder began with an update from the health department. He said the organization has three priorities right now which are testing, contact tracing and providing support and help to long-term care facilities and nursing homes. He shared details of each priority. Please listen to his full explanation from 3:00 to 7:25.
Mr. Hoffman then provided some insight into testing in terms of constraints and the process of obtaining results. He said they work predominantly with hospitals. They have seen a decline in the number of tests coming in since the peak of the illness has passed. The company has increased testing for pre-surgical needs.
Dr. DeGennaro, who is based in Florida, provided an update on antibody testing. He said antibody testing will be important for us getting back to work and school. He then shared his thoughts on antibody testing and how that may look in communities. He spoke 13:40 to 18:35.
Mr. Hoffman then added that his company does antibody testing, too. He elaborated on this kind of testing. Dr. Bickel asked Mr. Hoffman about trends in Georgia and what his company is seeing there. Dr. DeGennaro and Mr. Hoffman then spoke on the specificity of testing at 25:25 to 27:33.
Chief Forte provided an update on the reopening strategy. He said the idea of reopening is mirroring the national and state plans. The state plan is a little slower than the national plan. He explained the strategy of the phases and how those are measured in terms of cases. He said they in the fire department, and for the city, are looking at how to open facilities to make sure there's proper PPE and safe practices in place. He also said as far as face masks go, the CDC, Department of Health, and local emergency manager recommend wearing a face mask in public, especially where social distancing is difficult. Currently, we are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases locally. He then provided some additional thoughts on masks. His explanation runs from 29:54 to 36:45.
Questions Answered in Town Hall Video:
The City of Palm Coast received the following questions regarding masks. Mayor Holland asked the experts to weigh in on this subject. See below…
1. In last week's Town Hall, Dr. Bickel stated that if just 60% of people wore face masks that were even 60% effective, that would reduce the spread rate of the virus to only 1%. What would a 100% of mask wearing compliance accomplish? And why, in the interest of the health and safety of all, would his statement not be a very compelling reason to make mask wearing a requirement at least in public places where social distancing is difficult? Do Dr. Bickel and/or Bob Snyder feel that if everybody wore masks in public places where social distancing is difficult, that would potentially reduce the virus spread rate? If so, what could be the rationale for not going beyond the CDC recommendations and make it a requirement rather than just a recommendation especially given the amount of mask wearing non-compliance in our community. Is Flagler County considering a mandate that face masks be worn in public areas like grocery stores?
2. Why are restaurants not required to wear mask and gloves while handling food and drink glasses?
3. A lot of us, especially the more vulnerable, are avoiding shopping in our local businesses and opting for internet deliveries for needed items because a large number of shoppers and store employees are not wearing masks. Isn't this hurting our already struggling local establishments and shouldn't those stores in which social distancing is difficult simply deny entry to those not wearing masks?
4. Because of the lack of compliance in our community in the wearing of face masks, I will not shop in local stores and rely solely on online ordering and delivery of needed items. Wouldn't it be beneficial for their economic health to strongly encourage all local retail establishments to require mask wearing by their customers and employees?
5. Regarding face masks, should people not be given a false sense of security in wearing them because they can still contact the virus if it is not a N95 mask as these masks simply help keep the projectory of droplets if someone coughs or sneezes but the virus can still go through these masks, correct?
6. Now that you have started to open businesses when the numbers are still going up, will you provide N95 mask to high risk people?
7. It's my understanding that when you are outside and maintain a minimum of 6 feet social distancing, you won't catch the Coronavirus, even if you aren't wearing a facial covering. Obviously in these difficult times, it's good for anyone to go outside and get some fresh air, sunshine and exercise, while maintaining safe social distancing. I hope you will agree that people of all ages can go out for a walk, or a run or a bike ride or a game of golf without wearing a mask and have no fear that they might catch the virus provided they maintain the proper social distancing.
Full discussion from 37:35 to 42:40:
Mr. Snyder said the CDC came out with guidelines saying, especially for indoor public settings like grocery stores, that individuals should cover our faces with a cloth covering.
Dr. Bickel said that countries that have been successful in combatting this, had adopted universal mask wearing. Secondly, he said since there could be a risk of surging, and mask wearing could reduce that risk. He reiterates a statistic on the effectiveness of masks. He says wearing a mask is minimally intrusive to protect their neighbors.
Dr. DeGennaro said he understands the civil liberties side of this, but he said there are other things we do in our daily lives for protection of ourselves and others in the name of public health, non-COVID related. He went in to further detail on those. He also agreed that wearing a mask is to protect others. He then provided some thoughts on what it may take to incorporate mask wearing in the public.
The City of Palm Coast received the following questions regarding the reopening. Mayor Holland asked Mr. Morton to weigh in on this subject. See below…
8. When will the pools begin opening back up? Some states have a laid out calendar of when things will open and at what capacity they will be opening. Can we get some kind of diagram or timeline as well?
9. When do you plan on allowing the gyms to open for business?
10. Will the summer camps be open this year?
11. Since the city has opened tennis/pickle ball courts and the city's golf course, what about the basketball courts as my son likes to shoot baskets by himself. Usually there are not more than 5 people at once on a court and rarely see that when we have visited usually 1 or 2 people on each court/basket.
12. Is Palm Coast prepared for a spike in COVID-19 cases based on the groups of people seen all over town not taking this seriously? If it is so "safe" that businesses can reopen, why are government offices still closed to the public? Will the business that are not complying with COVID-19 regulations be forced to close?
13. Please open the parks in Palm Coast for pickleball. We are very careful playing, social distance, dip balls in bleach solution, etc. Plus, sunlight kills the virus. We need our pickleball play! Thank you for the consideration.
14. When will we see Palm Harbor open? What restrictions will there be?
Discussion 43:48 to 48:52:
Mr. Morton said the city's approach to reopening has been following CDC guidelines and the Governor's orders.
As far as city facilities, some have been reopened in terms of open space areas as of May 4. These are amenities people can socially distance and don't need enhanced cleaning regimens. See the following link: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/news-news/4643/welcome-back-palm-coast-businesses-parks-and-trails-reopen-with-guidelines-on-monday-may-4
He then mentioned the city has a phased reopening plan that gets modified on a daily basis and how some city workers have been reassigned to different duties in response to COVID-19. Right now, he said management is evaluating the best way to continue in reopening with appropriate PPE and training to City staff.
The following Monday, more facilities will reopen such as the golf course and tennis center. See the following: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/news-news/4647/palm-coast-parks-recreation-announces-further-openings-for-parks-and-recreational-amenities-starting-may-18
In terms of why these facilities (in the link above) first, Mr. Morton said activities like basketball and summer camps, are more team-oriented and involve groups, so they are not included because it is difficult to social distance.
Mr. Morton mentioned that he and other City managers will tour these facilities over the next few days to check on the safety protocols put in place to reopen prior to the announced reopening date of Monday, May 18. There will be practices for the public to follow and some new rules for these facilities.
Mayor Holland said if residents have mask or shopping concerns, to please contact the city. Following that, Mr. Morton said if residents need a mask, the City has some that can be given out. To make a request, go to palmcoastconnect.com and submit a case. Someone from the City customer service team will reach out.
What affect would a hurricane have on the Coronavirus 19?
Chief Forte said the Flagler County Emergency Management team is looking into how shelters will operate during hurricane season - in terms of spacing. They are evaluating other states methods in this query as a whole. Chief Forte also said that now is a good time for locals to check on a place with family in other areas for an evacuation plan.
Questions Not Answered in Town Hall Video:
I would like to know the current statistics on Flagler County/Palm Coast regarding the coronavirus. This should be up dated each day.
Please see the Florida Department of Health dashboard at the following link as it is updated daily: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/96dd742462124fa0b38ddedb9b25e429)
We have a condominium in Palm Coast. We do not rent and visit during the year. We live in New York. Are we permitted to drive to Palm Coast from New York at this time?
See question 18 from the May 6 town hall: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/news-news/4646/may-6-virtual-town-hall-q-a
Is it possible to be tested negative today and contract the virus tomorrow? Does the virus survive in a dead human host and if so how long?
See Questions 19 and 20 from the May 6 town hall: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/news-news/4646/may-6-virtual-town-hall-q-a
What plans are in place to monitor any resurgence in the fall and augment hospital capacity?
Please listen to AdventHealth COO Wally De Aquino's comments at the beginning of the May 6 town hall. The video can be accessed here: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/news-news/4646/may-6-virtual-town-hall-q-a
The City of Palm Coast received the following questions regarding testing. See below…
20. My wife and I got tested April 29th at the Daytona Beach College and still waiting for our results. We tried to get the results online but it says test pending. What can we do to find out our results?
21. Re: Testing. My wife and I were tested on 4/30 at the Advent drive through at Daytona State College. After 12 days, we still have not received our results. They said it would take 3 - 5 days for results. What is taking so long?
22. WHY are test results again taking 5-10 days for results??? Really. Answer that question because if you are going to throw numbers around, answer that. And I KNOW you have been asked that before and certainly didn't address it at your last meeting. We know you're all great and it's time to get over that and taking all your time to bring that up..ANSWER QUESTIONS of all your people.
23. I just read in the Nextdoor app today that testing in Flagler County will only continue for the next few days. How can this be when testing (or the lack thereof) seems to be part of the concerns expressed in every day's presser with the White House and the Task Force? And, without constant testing, how will we know whether opening up businesses and having people go back to work is not having a negative effect?
24. Is there a plan to test all nursing home and assisted living staff and residents?
At the beginning of the town hall, Mr. Snyder provided some information on testing starting at 3:20. His comments answer some of the topics relating to the questions. He also mentioned other efforts of the health department that answer some of the following questions. Please listen to the video for the full explanation.
I see some women and men who appear to be homeless and residing in our community. What outreach efforts are being made to assist with access to testing, appropriate medical care, and assistance with appropriate shelter/housing?
Update May 15 - This question came in for the May 6 town hall. We received the following information from Flagler County on May 15:
The DOH-Flagler's emergency planner and nurse specialist will coordinate specimen swabbing and the process for testing our homeless per the following schedule:
• Monday, 5/18, at Santa Maria del Mar, their weekly community supper, 5-7pm., up to 100 people
• Tuesday, 5/19 at the Sheltering Tree, 10 am. and Hammock, 11-12
• Wednesday, 5/20, at Church of the Rock, 9-12 and Bunnell Food Pantry
• Saturday, 5/23, at Church of the Rock, 9-3pm
Bags with masks and hand sanitizer will be distributed to participants at the sites as well. The county continues to work with those at risk of becoming homeless, homeless, and disabled individuals between 18-61 with Mainstream Vouchers on an individual basis to assist them with securing security deposits and, in some cases, rental units.
Does Flagler County plan on offering antibody testing? What is the City of Palm Coast doing to obtain antibody testing for senior residents?
Antibody testing is available in Palm Coast. You can ask your doctor for a referral to Quest Labs. OneBlood is also offering these tests to anyone who donates blood.
How many people in Palm Coast/Flagler County have actually been tested? This is a huge factor in making decisions concerning our own health.
The Department of Health has recorded 2,842 tests to date. Going forward, the department's goal is to test 2% of the population each month.
Will everyone in Flagler County (with or without symptoms) be tested for the COVID-19 virus in order to get things moving?
Ideally yes, and testing is now more broadly available. In fact, the Daytona State College site in Palm Coast is testing any resident that would like to be tested, provided they make an appointment by calling 386-313-4200. This testing is available three days each week between 9 am and 12PM. The health department is also making certain that our most vulnerable population - those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities - are tested, along with the people who work there.
How many active cases do we have in Flagler County? Not how many total cases, "active cases?"
The Department of Health is currently monitoring 48 individuals. These are people who have tested positive and their close contacts.
What accommodations or assistance is available for the people or children who have tested positive?
These individuals are monitored by the Department of Health and their direct contacts are also monitored as part of contact tracing. For families who have a child who tested positive, will the entire family need to be tested before ending self-quarantine? Household members of someone who tests positive are at high risk and should get tested if they develop symptoms. Can families who have a family member who tested positive be supplied with masks, cleaning supplies, and other essentials for caring for a covid-19 positive person? We are not aware of any organizations offering this type of assistance at this time.
The state and city are now in Phase 1 of recovery. At the same time we have many more testing sites, hence more people showing positive results. Who is going to determine the real reason for the increase? Because that determination, from whatever formula or algorithm is used, by whomever, will dictate the fate of the next Phase.
It's important to look at the positivity rate as an indicator of how well we are doing as a community. This equation is number of positive results divided total number of positives and negative results. Our rate for the past 14 days has been 1.9 percent compared with the state rate of 3.5 percent. This low number indicates that even though we are testing more, we are continue to receive a low number of positives. Through social distancing, mask wearing and good hygiene, our residents have helped keep virus spread lower than the state average.