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 July 29 COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall was Mayor Milissa Holland, City Manager Matthew Morton, Fire Chief Jerry Forte, FDOH-Flagler Administrator Bob Snyder, FDOH-Flagler Medical Director Dr. Stephen Bickel, and AdventHealth Palm Coast COO Wally De Aquino.
WATCH THE VIRTUAL TOWN HALL HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZfwbtfT0Ng
Mayor Holland announced with the launch of the city's #MaskUpPalmCoast campaign. You can learn more here: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/news-news/4674/community-encouraged-to-mask-up-palm-coast-to-prevent-covid19-spread and here: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/mask-up-palm-coast.
Mr. Snyder provided an update from the health department. He said they are tracking ten indicators and provided an update on cases, contact tracing, the nurse workload, and hospitalizations. He also explained what RT value is and what it means in terms of the virus. He also announced expanded testing locations. For testing information, please visit: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/covid-19-testing-locations. He announced turnaround times for testing are up to 10+ days because the demand is great nationwide. As a result, the state is contracting with two new labs with the goal of turnaround times of 2-3 days. They received CARES Act funding to hire 40 additional staff to keep pace with investigation tasks. So far, 18 people have been hired. His update runs from 3:48 to 8:59.
Dr. Bickel then provided some insight into the RT value. R refers to reproductive rate, the RT refers to reproductive rate at any time in the region - meaning the growth rate. It indicates on average, with the conditions, the average number of patients that one person will infect. You can hear his full informative explanation in the video from 9:05 to 14:25.
Mr. De Aquino provided an update for AdventHealth Palm Coast. He said the current status is 'steady.' He said they have not seen an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout the past ten days. He said they continue to have a steady hospitalization number - it's not increasing, but it's not decreasing. He elaborated on what they're seeing from 15:15 to 19:00.
Chief Forte then shared an update on COVID-19 efforts by the city emergency team. The city team is developing long-term plans. The Fire Department has been continuously sanitizing to keep the virus out. He also said crews are beginning training activities - but developing their own plans for small spaces. On top of that, he shared that the city team is monitoring for storms in preparation for the next few weeks. You can learn more on storm preparedness here: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/hurricane-preparations. You can hear his update from 19:37 to 26:24.
Mr. Morton then shared you can learn more on storm preparedness on Palm Coast Connect at the following link: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/hurricane-preparations. He encouraged residents to check on their supply kits for storm readiness. As we continue to navigate through COVID-19, city services are being conducted online through Palm Coast Connect. He said 97% of city services are uninterrupted. You can hear his comments from 26:30 to 29:21.
Can you please mandate masks in stores and other public places, and in outdoor spaces where socially distancing is not practical?
Mr. Snyder mentioned some businesses are requiring shoppers to wear masks to enter. He said he and Dr. Bickel feel facial coverings is the number one public measure that can have an impact. You can listen to the full discussion from 30:45 to 33:03.
You can read about the city's mask requirement from July 7 here: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/news-news/4670/city-of-palm-coast-announces-mask-requirement.
Mr. Snyder and Chief Forte also highlighted the thousands of masks distributed to the community in the month of July in partnership with the Palm Coast Fire Department and FDOH-Flagler. More masks just arrived to the health department so stay tuned for how to get additional masks for your family.
I was under the impression that people who cannot breathe, especially in this heat, with a mask on would be able to forgo wearing a mask. I have no problem having the mask available to cough or sneeze into. I do think the wording wear a mask or social distancing is required. It seems to me if I am standing far enough away, my mask isn't necessary. The heat alone keeps people like me home but there are times I have to go to the doctor's office or elsewhere. I was refused service at a local place while having to stand in 90 degree heat waiting to be escorted in, only if I wore my mask OVER MY NOSE. In this heat I couldn't. I can't breathe.
The panel discussed mask wearing and those with underlying conditions. You can hear the full discussion from 35:15 to 37:00.
How is AdventHealth prepared to handle COVID cases in Flagler County?
Mr. De Aquino said they are better prepared than they were in March. The hospital had put protocols in place for safety, including the screening process. He also emphasized the use of masks and said that staff has been working hard and are resilient. Mr. De Aquino said he's thankful for them and all healthcare workers in the county. He shared details of a certain case they experienced and the importance of mask-wearing and proper hygiene. He provided more specific overall details of the hospital which you can hear from 37:11 to 42:00.
Has Palm Coast had any hot spots or are the cases random?
Mr. Snyder said they are tracking zip codes and other areas for this kind of trend. Nothing has surfaced yet. He also highlighted the health department's partnership with the city to look into hotspots through mapping data tracked by the city. If a hotspot is discovered, the health department will send a strike team to investigate. He outlined the plan from 42:35 to 44:31.
Mr. Morton then added details on the partnership, which involves heat mapping using wastewater testing data that will be occurring soon in the city. Dr. Bickel also added some insight on this and said that this strategy identifies potential cases before they become a case confirmed through testing. It's also a measure of the community to identify larger testing areas. The maps will help in identifying this. You can hear this from 45:00 to 49:25.
When will Palm Coast resume enforcing parking regulations? Overnight on-street parking has become rampant in the L section (Laramie etc.) and presents dangerous conditions for drivers, children etc. Who is liable for neglecting reinforcement?
The city did not stop these functions, however, some resources were repurposed due to events occurring in recent months. These efforts are ongoing.
I love Palm Coast Connect, but as has been stated before, having to sign in each time is a pain. Can we get remember my sign in or better yet, facial ID?
The IT Department is working to get this developed. We will update when it's ready.
Question 7 (multi-question):
What are we doing to keep our children safe in school? I do understand face-to-face connection is important. When schools reopen, are we able to respond properly if students and faculty are infected with COVID-19? Are we able to test students for COVID-19 prior to them returning to school? Will it be mandatory for students in high school to wear masks?
Mr. Snyder said he recently provided comments to the school district on public health. He said the options allow for families to have input on their child's education and some which allow for remote learning. He said masks were addressed in the school district plan. Please reach out to Flagler Schools for that information. He also provided some insight on testing. You can hear this answer 53:15 to 57:00.
When is City Hall scheduled to reopen?
The city will make an announcement soon. (This is the last announcement we made on this: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/news-news/4669/updated-palm-coast-city-hall-reopening-dates)
In closing, Mr. Snyder said there are two indicators trending in the right direction giving him hope. He highlighted mask-wearing saying it's the number one tool we have in our toolbox. Dr. Bickel said there have been two groups in opposition to masks, but he said this is a serious situation and there is no reason to relax our vigil.
Mr. De Aquino also invited the community to wear masks and said that will help control the surge in our community.
Chief Forte said be cognizant about the situations happening in our community.
Mr. Morton said for everyone to please remain connected.
Mayor Holland thanked residents for tuning in and asking questions. She also thanked our local partners for keeping our community safe.