Local officials monitoring health reports as person diagnosed in Alachua County
By Sarah Cavacini and Emanuel Griffin
Palatka Daily News
Eight more Florida coronavirus cases were reported by the Florida Department of Health on Tuesday night, but Putnam County officials said the county is prepared to handle virus repercussions.
“We are aware of the growing number of cases in Florida, and we continue to remain diligent in our preparations should (coronavirus) appear in Putnam County,” Putnam Community Medical Center CEO Mark Dooley said Wednesday in a statement. “We encourage the public to visit www.cdc.gov and follow the coronavirus prevention recommendations.”
Dooley said Putnam Community is making preparations in case someone diagnosed with coronavirus were to show up at the hospital.
“We are making sure that if the need arises, we have adequate supplies of protective equipment for staff,” Dooley said. “We are also working closely with the county health department to assure all of our staff have the most recent updates regarding (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations for treating patients.”
When asked if he could confirm or deny someone had been quarantined at the hospital, Dooley said he couldn’t “discuss specific patient information, but I can say there have been no positive cases to date in Putnam County.”
As of Tuesday night, 21 people in the state have been diagnosed with coronavirus, according to data from the state Department of Health. Two of them have died from the respiratory disease.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic Wednesday during a media briefing.
Although the organization’s general director, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made the announcement, he said the word “pandemic” should not cause “unreasonable fear.”
“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “‘Pandemic’ is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. … WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases.”
On Tuesday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody activated the price gouging hotline for consumers in the state. The hotline, which can be called at 866-966-7226, will receive complaints about retailers illegally marking up prices of sanitizer, respiratory masks and cleaning supplies.
Some stores in Putnam County were low on rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer and other supplies this week as people emptied shelves because of coronavirus concerns.
The most recent cases confirmed in Florida occurred in Collier, Pinellas, Pasco, Nassau and Alachua counties, according to the Florida Department of Health.
There is a positive case in Broward County associated with Port Everglades. The department recommends anyone who has traveled through Port Everglades recently to self-isolate and contact their local health care provider.
Putnam County Commission Chairman Terry Turner said the county is fully prepared and has been taking proper precautions regarding the virus.
“While I think it is very serious and I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of it, I think that we all need to remain calm, wash your hands, try to do your best to reduce the possible (spread) to yourself. But other than that remain clam,” Turner said. “If it comes and we’ve done everything we can do, believe me, Putnam County will be prepared.”
Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill said city residents should follow health department recommendations in protecting against the virus.
School officials are also making preparations.
“The Putnam County School District remains in close communication with the Florida Department of Health and our local health department in order to keep the public informed,” Surrency said.
According to Surrency, putnamschools.org now includes coronavirus updates from the school district and health department. He said all school-related travel is subject to being postponed or canceled.
“This (virus) affects everyone in this room and we’re all in this together,” Surrency said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.