Putnam dodging virus as call center assists residents

  • Mary Garcia, Misty Hamling and Judy Kamys work at the call center Tuesday in Palatka.
    Mary Garcia, Misty Hamling and Judy Kamys work at the call center Tuesday in Palatka.

The number of positive coronavirus cases in the state rose to 328 as of Wednesday evening, but Putnam County still has none. 

The county tested 23 people, with 13 negative results and 10 had no results received by 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to floridadisaster.org. One person died in Clay County who previously tested positive for COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health.

County officials established a call center Tuesday at the Emergency Operations Center, 410 S. State Road 19 in Palatka. The center is open 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Run by Department of Health in Putnam County medical personnel and county officials. The call center, which can be reached at 329-1904, is where local residents can get up-to-date news about the virus. 

If these lines cannot be reached, the Florida Department of Health has a 24/7 call line available at 866-779-6121.

Putnam County Emergency Management Coordinator Ryan Simpson said the center received about 100 calls as of Wednesday afternoon. 

“A local call center is a great idea because we understand residents have questions,” Simpson said. “The state call center doesn’t have local information.”

Updates are also available on the county’s website, main.putnam-fl.com, and residents can subscribe to alerts at putnamalert.com. 

The Putnam County Board of Commissioners met Wednesday in an emergency meeting and ultimately passed a vote 4-1 in favor of canceling next week’s board meeting to help flatten the curve of the virus’ path. 

“I thought (coronavirus) was a joke until I started sitting in all these meetings every day,” Commission Chairman Terry Turner said. “Let me tell you, commissioners, this is no joke.” 

The board’s decision to cancel came one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide executive order. Bars and nightclubs are closed for 30 days, restaurants are only allowed to seat at 50% capacity and beachgoers should limit their group to 10 or fewer people, the order stated. 

There have been seven coronavirus deaths in Florida as of Wednesday evening, and counties such as Alachua, Clay and St. Johns have reported cases. 

As of press time Wednesday, 2,493 people are under surveillance in Florida. 

“Some of the steps we’re taking will really help reduce density, reduce crowds and I think that’s probably the best thing that we can do at this point,” DeSantis said. “It’s our hope that these new restrictions will reduce the ability of folks to congregate in large numbers.”

Meanwhile, virus concerns continue to affect court proceedings. Seventh Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Raul Zambrano said in an order only critical court proceedings will continue through April 6 to try and stop the spread of the virus.

Last week, the state halted civic and criminal jury trials as well as grand jury proceedings.

Clay Electric has also taken action to limit the spread of the virus. Effective today, Clay Electric will close district office lobbies to the public.

“We encourage members to take advantage of phone, website, drive-thru and alternative payment methods outlined at clayelectric.com,” the cooperative said in a statement.


Wayne Smith contributed to this report.