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August 19 Virtual Town Hall Q & A

Posted 8/19/2020 3:03:00 PM

City of Palm Coast

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 Aug. 19 COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall will be Mayor Milissa Holland, Fire Chief Jerry Forte, FDOH-Flagler Administrator Bob Snyder, FDOH-Flagler Medical Director Dr. Stephen Bickel, AdventHealth Palm Coast COO Wally De Aquino and CEO of AquaVitas Adam Gushari.

WATCH THE VIRTUAL TOWN HALL HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS27jLmPzvE&feature=youtu.be

On Palm Coast Connect, is a page for resident assistance through various programs: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/article/Resources-for-Residents-in-Palm-Coast

Testing Locations: https://www.palmcoastconnect.com/s/covid-19-testing-locations

Mr. Snyder reports Flagler County has 1,181 positive Covid-19 cases, with 650 six weeks ago; 876 of these cases live in Palm Coast zip codes; 14 deaths; 5.8% positivity rate; 15 hospitalizations; 20 children under age 18 tested positive (13.8% positivity rate). Emergency room visits continue trending downwards. We still have six testing sites open. For locations and hours, call 386-313-4200.

Schools open Aug. 24, with the DOH assisting schools to decide about the safe opening. The Department has added 29 new staff members to assist with the opening. CDC guidelines will be in place: facial coverings are required; safer seating distances when applicable; more cleaning and handwashing; more parent screenings for their own children to determine if they should/shouldn't come to school. Just one single Covid case will be considered an outbreak. The Health Department is working closely with the School District to monitor all guidelines.  Everyone is confident that team partners are ready to keep children and staff safe with all the challenges they face.  12:04-12:11.

Mr. De Aquino discussed that AdventHealth Palm Coast is looking at pretty much the same scenarios as past weeks. Their hospitalizations are lower and the number of symptomatic people who have come to the emergency room are also lower. Testing of patients is an ongoing challenge. Tests are going to numerous labs, with a three day turnaround for patients. The hospital has also reached out to local Urgent Care Centers to prepare them for any additional help everyone may need now that schools will re-open. 12:12-12:14

Chief Forte gave Town Hall guests an update about City news: Although we currently have no hurricane threats, two tropical features are appearing on radar in the Atlantic Ocean.  Residents should stay alert.  Also, City staff is discussing possibly opening three new things for the public:  1) Quasi-judicial meetings - may be open for one item only.  CDC guidelines must be met, meaning that attendees must all have temperatures taken, wear masks, social distance.  Participants may be asked to access the meeting via Zoom.  Presently, the IT and Community Development Departments are reviewing solutions. 2) Community Center - summer camps and voting have both been successful endeavors at the community center, so staff is looking to possibly expand on new plans for opening for other programs. 3) City Hall - we're not sure of the exact date for opening because all department directors need to discuss guidelines for their various employees.  When City Hall opens to the public, temperatures will be taken; signs will be posted with questions that the community will answer regarding their own individual health at the time; stickers will be given to guests with color codes relating to various departments.  All three of these issues still have moving parts and are still under advisement. 12:14-12:20

CEO of AquaVitas Adam Gushari revealed information about Palm Coast's novel and exciting technology - analyzing sewage to relate pertinent data regarding Covid health of our community.  This is wastewater-based epidemiology, starting at the specific collection point: resident's toilets.  Wasterwater passes through pumps, life stations and to our wastewater treatment plants for sample collection.  Composite samples are collected and tested during a 24-hour period.  Upon lab analysis, cases are isolated and information is put into tangible figures to be translated into actual policy development.  These tests determine WHERE there may be possible hot spots for Covid 19, as data is collected from six specific areas across the City.  The data can best be utilized to find Covid in areas with schools, assisted living facilities or nursing homes.  The Health Department can then zero in on these specific places for testing and educating.  Dr. Bickel and Mr. Snyder commented people don't have to leave homes for this testing sample to work.  Also, they noted that this methodology is very sensitive to finding Covid because it finds the hot spots where residents may have the disease, even if they are asymptomatic.  Mayor Holland agreed, stating that this data is important because it show actual trends in Palm Coast.  Once we locate areas, we can utilize our own in-house City resources, along with the Health Department, to be more proactive to pinpoint direct areas of Covid.  Palm Coast is a ground-breaking community for this program: we are one of only a few hundred to utilize wastewater testing to analyze areas of Covid. 12:20-12:39

Dr. Bickel concurred that this wastewater testing project is very exciting.  But he's also excited about the newest concept of rapid testing.  Our local health officials are lobbying heavily for this new concept to be implemented.  It detects contagion with people eventually testing at home with kits they can buy at a store.  This testing capability is not available yet, but Dr. Bickel says that when/if it does become available it will be a Covid game changer.  Stay tuned.  12:39 to 12:43

QUESTIONS:

  1. It has been reported that the Flagler County school district has refused to provide the public with the number of students and staff that have tested positive for the virus. Given that this information will be provided to the Flagler Health Department, will the Health Department make this information public based upon their promise of total reporting transparency? How can contact tracing be accurately accomplished when a school has a positive case given the probable extent of contact within the large school population?        Mr. Snyder says that the DOH will be honest and transparent.  It's not IF they will be transparent, but WHEN.  They are prepared to tell families where there's an outbreak, but not give out individual names.  Investigations will occur immediately upon a case discovery.  So will contact tracing to determine all who have been in close contact with the individual.  Children will be quarantined and teachers/staff will work closely with DOH to break the rate of transmission at the specific school.  Everyone who needs to know will know.  12:43-12:46
  2. During a town hall two weeks ago, there was mention of possibly utilizing existing drive-thru virus test sites to administer flu vaccines, especially for those reluctant to visit indoor facilities where mask-wearing is not enforced. Is there any update on that idea?  Mr. De Aquino and Mr. Snyder both discussed flu vaccines.  After many discussions, the community WILL be giving flu shots at all of their Covid test sites this fall.  This will occur, thanks to a suggestion from a community member who was participating in this Virtual Town Meeting several weeks ago.  Additionally, it was noted that our hospital staff will be looking at flu cases much like they are presently looking at Covid cases.  It is believed that if the community follows the same health protocols, we all may be seeing a lower number of flu cases. 12:45-12:50
  3. Isn't it mandatory for both workers and customers to wear masks at all times? Chief Forte says that the City is requiring all employees to always wear masks except:  those who are working alone in their offices; those field workers doing work outdoors and alone. Additionally answered by Chief Forte -------see below question:                   

       4. Are city employees working at City Hall or continuing to work from home? If it is safe enough to open the schools, why are employees not at their worksite? Seems like a mixed message to the community?  Chief Forte noted that city employees are essential workers who need to be kept healthy at all times.  Those who are successfully completing their tasks at home will continue to do so.  This reduces the possibility of cross contamination.  A few departments - Finance and Community Development - will need to re-configure their space at City Hall because they traditionally need to be stationed more closely together to accomplish certain tasks. Mayor Holland commented that our City services have not been disrupted during the pandemic and that we all are grateful to our employees who've accomplished so much by working at home.  12:50-12:58

The meeting closed with remarks from Dr. Bickel, Mr. De Aquino and Dr. Gushari -- They are happy to see community progress with our case numbers decreasing; they are glad to see the response to our outbreaks being addressed quickly as a team; they are complimentary of the City of Palm Coast for adopting new wastewater technology to improve the health and lives of our residents.  12:58-1:01.