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On the good news front, eight-month-old Onyx Hebert continues to improve. He’s the little boy from Putnam County who recently had a heart transplant at Shands Hospital for Children in Gainesville. Photos on Facebook now show him smiling. His mother, Heather Bass Hebert, reports it’s the first time she’s seen him smile in about a month. “It’s not his SIGNATURE smile but it is a lot better than the grumpy looks daddy & I have been getting the last few weeks,” she wrote. Word is he will be going home next week. Onyx continues to be in the prayers of lots of people in Putnam and St. Johns counties.
Also good news for the state of Florida with President Trump Wednesday granting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to declare the state a disaster area. DeSantis cited the “drastic effect” the coronavirus outbreak is having on Florida’s economy and hospitals. The designation makes it easier to receive federal help. So far DeSantis says a survey of more than 6,600 businesses show more than have laid off employees. That’s added 40,400 to the state’s unemployed. Before coronavirus the state was enjoying one of the lowest unemployment rates in memory.
In Putnam County three more people have been added to those testing positive for the coronavirus. Total is five. The latest is a 23-year-old woman. Also testing positive a 71-year-old woman and 65-year-old man. Those two cases are unrelated. In Flagler County the school district has its first case of an employee testing positive for coronavirus. More than 1,700 people work for the district. So far six people in the county have tested positive for the virus. St Johns County is reporting 26 cases of the virus. One person has died in St. Johns from the virus.
Palatka is adding a fire station at least temporarily. Palatka city commissioners during their emergency meeting Tuesday agreed to a proposal to move one of their engines and a team to the riverfront. The firefighters will be using the building built as dockmaster quarters located by the city dock. Public bathrooms attached to the building are being closed to anyone beside emergency personnel. Fire Chief J.R. Grimes says the move will reduce possibilities of virus spread when personnel shift changes occur. This will mean the fire department will have three locations. The other two are the original fire department building at 11th Street and the one on Moody Road.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly is frustrated after a Volusia County judge released a man on his own recognizance who is wanted on three Flagler County warrants. Rondal Gibson, 31, has been sought since last summer’s Operation Heat Wave. The felony warrants included two for failure to appear and one revoked bond in a drug trafficking case. Gibson was arrested in Ormond Beach at a girlfriend’s apartment and booked into Volusia County Jail on the Flagler County warrants ordering he be held without bond. At first appearance Wednesday Volusia County Court Judge Judith Campbell released Gibson on his own recognizance. “With his record of fleeing and failing to appear, why would anyone think he will change his behavior?” said the sheriff, adding, “Criminals are being allowed to take advantage of the system because of coronavirus and decisions like this.”
Most boat ramps remain open in St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties. A couple have been shut down along beaches which are either closed or not allowing traffic. Now boaters are warning people to be careful not to violate the social distancing rules when it comes to gathering on locations including sandbars, a popular place to pull up and socialize. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers are on the water checking for possible violations. In South Florida it was large gatherings by partiers that led to closing of ramps in that area. North Florida fishermen and boaters are reminding people commercial fishermen need the ramps in order to continue to make a living and others need the ramps in order to allow safe recreation to continue.
This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.