Putnam County’s number of COVID-19 cases increased to 58 Monday, with two Palatka residents testing positive for the coronavirus.
Of the 58 cases, the state Department of Health reported eight of them were residents or staff members of long-term care facilities in the county.
Vintage Care Senior Housing in Palatka was on the list of Putnam nursing homes and long-term care facilities the state Department of Health released Monday where staff or patients have been tested positive for the virus.
Vintage Care officials could not be reached to verify if the facility had eight cases, either with patients or staff members. An employee answering the phone Monday night said no one was available to discuss the number of cases at the facility.
The Department of Health said data from the list was cumulative and represented COVID-19 positive reports in staff and residents from long-term care facilities in Florida from March 2, 2020, to date. There are several nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Putnam County. Vintage Care was the only facility in the county listed in Monday night’s report.
Gov. Ron DeSantis had the state Department of Health start releasing the names of nursing homes and long-term care facilities Saturday, saying he thought it was important for families to know which facilities have had positive cases.
Facilities already were required to notify all residents, staff and families once there was a positive test.
“I told the surgeon general from the beginning that we want to put as much information out as we can,” DeSantis said. “It is necessary for public health to release the names of the facilities where a resident or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.”
Mary Garcia, administrator for the Department of Health in Putnam County, said cases in long-term care facilities remain a local high priority, as well as a priority directed by the governor.
“Any case, particularly one in a (long-term care facility), is a concern of ours,” Garcia said. “We have spent a considerable amount of time since day one communicating with LTF management to ensure they are aware of response protocols, as well as how to take necessary safety precautions.
“When requested by the facility, we have facilitated training and personal protective equipment.”
The Department of Health’s report Monday night showed there were 307 nursing homes or long-term care facilities in the state with COVID-19 cases. There were 1,928 reported cases and 204 deaths.
Putnam County’s two new COVID-19 cases Monday from Palatka were with a 43-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man.
There have been 1,009 negative tests in the county with 11 hospitalizations. There has been one reported death, a 54-year-old Palatka man who died in another county.
The number of those who have recovered has not been released by the Department of Health. Garcia said the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are exploring a standardized definition for “recovery.”
With beaches in Duval and St. Johns counties reopening during the weekend, Garcia urged residents to continue to take precautions before considering a beach trip.
“Before going, I would ask anyone to research what the regulations are to visit each of the beaches,” Garcia said. “Remember, we are still under an ‘essential-activities-only’ order implemented by Gov. DeSantis.”
Garcia also said residents should continue to follow social distancing guidelines during the pandemic to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We are concerned when people do not practice proper social distancing and are in groups larger than 10,” Garcia said. “We cannot state loudly enough that this virus does not discriminate based on age, sex or race.
“Anyone can acquire this virus, so follow the safeguards that we have been talking about and be the hero we need to help us stop the spread of this virus.”
The Department of Health continues to have staff at the Putnam County Emergency Operations Center 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily to take calls from those who may be ill or have questions about COVID-19. The call center number is 329-1904.
“Please keep the Putnam COVID-19 team in your thoughts and prayers as (Monday) is day 38 of our emergency response to this new virus,” Garcia said in an email. “We have answered over 2,000 calls to our center, initiated or completed over 70 local missions, tested over 1,000 people, as well as continuing to inform our community and critical partners of the importance of this virus and the need for proper PPE usage, self-isolation, hand washing, and care for our most vulnerable populations.”
As of Monday night, there were 27,058 cases in Florida and 823 reported deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.