While Putnam County’s numbers grew by only four over the weekend, the state Department of Health is still stressing residents to follow stay-at-home orders to guard against the continuing spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Putnam Community Medical Center CEO Mark Dooley said the hospital during the weekend admitted two patients who tested positive for coronavirus.
Putnam County remained at 19 positive cases of COVID-19 as of 6 p.m. Monday, according to the Department of Health. Of the 19 cases, six patients required hospitalization.
The department reported 10 of the cases were in Palatka, eight in Interlachen and one in Crescent City.
According to the agency, there have been 527 negative tests for the virus out of 551 people tested. The department was awaiting results from five other tests. Putnam County reported its first death – a 54-year-old Palatka man – related to COVID-19 Friday. The victim died in a hospital in another county.
Mary Garcia, administrator for the state Department of Health in Putnam County, urged residents to continue to practice regular hand washing and social distancing.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order went into effect Friday.
“The next two weeks, from hearing all predictions, are going to be the worst weeks, at least for the country,” Garcia said. “Just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean it’s not brewing.
“Anyone with any symptoms at all or any changes should call the call center.”
The Putnam County call center for coronavirus is open 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. daily. Residents can call 329-1904 with questions regarding COVID-19 or to be screened for testing.
The county’s 16th case was reported Saturday as a 14-year-old Palatka male.
“We’re seeing younger folks getting this, which is just a shock to us,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the Department of Health is not releasing information on people who have tested positive for COVID-19 who are now in recovery as they are still being monitored.
“They’re reviewing that at the state level,” Garcia said. “We don’t know the re-infection rate, so we’re asking (those who have tested positive) to still shelter in place.
“If it’s not essential (to go out), we’re asking everyone to please abide by the rules. There are a lot of people out there trying to save people’s lives.”
Dooley said the two patients admitted during the weekend were still at the hospital Monday. He said the hospital had precautions in place “to allow us to effectively deal with any patients who in fact are positive.”
“Every patient who has come to the hospital that was suspected of COVID has been treated as though they were positive while being tested,” Dooley said in an email. “We already were isolating suspected patients in private ICU rooms or in a designated unit, so we were well-prepared and did not have to implement any new precautions.”
Dooley also said the hospital has a plan in place should there be an overflow of patients who test positive for the virus.
“We do have a plan and we will be able to expand our number of intensive care beds quickly if the need arises,” Dooley said. “We are forming a committee of physicians, staff and community members to assist us in that planning and the execution of the plan if needed.
“We are fortunate that, if we are in need of additional staff, (our parent company) will work with us to secure staff from other facilities.”
Statewide Monday, the Department of Health reported 13,629 cases in Florida with 254 deaths.
Also Monday, DeSantis encouraged people to be “spiritually together but to remain socially distant” during the upcoming religious holidays.
“Please keep God close but COVID-19 away,” DeSantis said at a news conference.
DeSantis said his administration has over the past few days been in contact with Christian and Jewish leaders across the state to discuss upcoming plans for Easter and Passover celebrations.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.