3 diagnosed with COVID-19 as full Phase 1 begins


Monday marked the reopening of gyms, expansion of restaurant capacity to 50%


Michel Scott said she was overwhelmed when Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week gyms and fitness centers could reopen Monday.

“I just dropped my head and released a few tears,” said Scott, owner of USA Fitness on State Road 19 in Palatka. “That’s how much I care about the community and my gym members.”

Gyms and fitness centers started reopening Monday as Putnam County moved into the full Phase 1 of DeSantis’ plan for slowly reopening the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Putnam County libraries reopen today for public access with limited hours and modified operations. The Putnam County Board of Commissioners said all library locations will be open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The governor’s latest order also extended restaurants’ indoor seating capacity to 50% with proper social distancing.  Barbershops and hair and nail salons were allowed to reopen last week but must follow safety protocols.

Putnam County Board of Commissioners Chairman Terry Turner said Monday it’s too soon to know how long DeSantis will keep most of the state in Phase 1 of reopening.

“We’ve got to learn how to live with it to some degree, but we have to learn how to live with it in the safest manner possible,” Turner said. “Our economy has to get moving again.

“With (the Department of Health) accelerating testing, which is what’s going on now, we’re going to find more cases of it. Residents just have to continue to wash their hands and use the most common sense they can when they’re in public.”

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health in Putnam County reported three new COVID-19 cases Monday. The county has reported 134 cases overall.

The cases reported Monday included two from Melrose, a 27-year-old man and a 59-year-old woman. An Interlachen woman, 48, also tested positive for the virus.

Putnam County had three straight days without a new case to end last week. One case was reported Saturday and three more  Sunday.

Overall, there have been 2,674 tests in the county with 2,532 negative tests. Three deaths have been reported and there have been 16 cases requiring hospitalization. The Department of Health has said 90 of the people with positive cases have recovered.

Turner said the reopening of the libraries in the county is an encouraging sign.

Appointments are encouraged but not necessary to access all library locations. Call 329-0126 to schedule an appointment.

“Each library itself will have limited access and we’ll be monitoring it to make sure everyone is social distancing,” Turner said. “There will be one computer for public use and it will be sanitized after every single use.”

Modified services also include browsing and reading, Wi-Fi use and the checkout of materials. Books and other resources can be reserved online and picked up curbside. For more information, visit funinputnam.com.

Scott said USA Fitness opened Monday morning with having a class outdoors. Gyms were allowed to open up to 50% capacity and Scott said staff members can monitor how many people have checked in.

“We’ve spent a lot of time preparing the gym, taking extra precautions cleaning and spacing out cardio equipment,” Scott said. “We have guidelines to go by and I felt comfortable being able to open the doors today.”

Dina Womble, owner of The Refinery Fitness on St. Johns Avenue in Palatka, said her gym wasn’t completely open Monday.

“We’re mainly doing small group training and making sure everything is set in place,” Womble said. “We’re doing one-on-one personal training and hoping to get everything up and ready by the end of the week.”

Florida has had more than 45,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus resulting in nearly 2,000 deaths, according to statistics provided by the state.