This news bulletin is brought to you in conjunction with NATKIM Radio. Listen to WPLK (800 AM), WIYD (1260 AM) and WPLK FM (98.3 FM).
Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns officials including law enforcement are echoing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call for people 65 and older to self-quarantine for the next two weeks as efforts continue to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Others are being urged to stay home when possible and next week students will be going to school online. Palatka’s city commissioners at a special meeting Tuesday urged people to stay home and said they had seven city workers being tested for the virus. One of the people works for city manager Bill Shanahan, the rest apparently work together in a public safety department. Putnam County has two people who have tested positive.
Putnam Community Medical Center has found itself in the midst of a controversy after local officials revealed Tuesday that the first person to test positive for coronavirus in Putnam County is an emergency room doctor at the hospital. Test results came back Friday and officials including the Florida Department of Health and Sheriff’s officers began backtracing to find out who the doctor had seen. Sheriff Gator DeLoach said a female deputy with his department had been removed from duty and was currently in isolation and being monitored after coming in contact with the doctor. DeLoach said “I share the community’s frustration with the lack of preparedness and response by the hospital.” During a joint press conference County Commission Chair Terry Turner noted the county was dealing with “an unexpected request from the hospital for additional personal protection equipment.” Hospital officials said they hadn’t been contacted by anyone beside the Department of Health. Reportedly some hospital board members were not told ahead of the press conference about the situation with the doctor. A Facebook post earlier in the week said an individual taken to the hospital was first told they would be tested but then was told the tests were being saved for hospital personnel. Mary Garcia with the state Department of Health in Putnam County responded on Facebook saying the person could come to department offices in Palatka for the test.
St. Johns County reported its first coronavirus death Tuesday. The 52-year-old man who died had traveled in Florida and Minnesota, according to the Florida Department of Health. He was in contact with a known coronavirus case and had been diagnosed Monday, according to FDOH. St. Johns currently has 24 cases.
In Flagler County the Palm Coast mayor’s office is reportedly getting complaints about the number of guests at Hammock Beach Resort who are crowding into common areas such as the pool and rec center in disregard to social distancing rules. Company officials say they’ve taken “significant measures” to be in compliance with new regulations and there wasn’t a problem. Flagler has four cases of coronavirus. The first person identified with the virus in Flagler County has told news outlets she has been released from the hospital. She lives in Volusia County, but her children attend school in Flagler. She says her son who attends Flagler Palm Coast High School has now tested positive.
Public access to government buildings is being shut down. Putnam County is closing all of their departments beginning today. Exceptions are for emergency services and the landfill. Workers are available but need to be contacted by phone or email. All libraries in Putnam are closed as of today. Online services are available through youseemore.com/palatka/ In Crescent City officials closed city hall, police and fire departments to the public until further notice. Palatka has closed its city hall and all other facilities. Mayor Terrell Hill is urging people not to have large reunions or parties noting a couple have recently drawn several hundred people. Jail time and fines are possible results for violators.
St. Augustine announced today the extension of current restrictions on events, festivals and large gatherings. The latest festival to be lost is Romanza Festival 2020 set for 17 days in May. The event has been canceled and not rescheduled. Organizers normally put on the annual Celtic Festival on St. Patrick’s weekend but that had to be canceled this year two days beforehand. Celtic Festival profits normally pays for Romanza.
And a tip of the hat to Cathy Youell Ingram who like many of us is at home and wondering what to do. Her Facebook post noted: After years of waiting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time this week I discovered that wasn’t the reason.
This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.