County reports two cases; hospital says it’s prepared

  • A LifeSouth bloodmobile is set up for blood donors Monday at a shopping center in Palatka. LifeSouth said it is in critical need of blood donors.
    A LifeSouth bloodmobile is set up for blood donors Monday at a shopping center in Palatka. LifeSouth said it is in critical need of blood donors.
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Putnam Community Medical Center CEO Mark Dooley
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Two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Putnam County during the weekend, but Putnam Community Medical Center said it’s prepared to handle the virus if it continues to spread. 

“We continue to stress the importance of following CDC guidelines related to slowing the spread of the virus,” CEO Mark Dooley said. “Physical distancing as well as consistent hand washing are two things that are stressed as critically important in these efforts.”

A 67-year old man was confirmed to contract the virus by traveling to California. An 82-year-old woman did not receive the virus through travel, according to floridadisaster.org. 

While the exact locations of the cases in Putnam County are unknown, floridadisaster.org reported the cases to be in Palatka and Interlachen. 

As of Monday evening, 97 people were tested for coronavirus in the county. Two cases were positive, 55 were negative and 40 results are pending. 

“PCMC has protocols in place to care for patients with infectious diseases, and we have been working diligently to help ensure our hospital is prepared for any potential issues related to COVID-19,” Dooley said in a statement. “Recently, PCMC was notified by the Department of Health that an individual who had been in our facility tested positive for COVID-19.”

He said emergency planning at the hospital started months ago and although there is a worldwide shortage on health supplies, PCMC currently has everything in stock to address patient needs. 

“We are adopting specific protocols, outlined by the CDC, for the appropriate reuse of certain (personal protective equipment) and we are asking our colleagues to conserve these items by following, but not exceeding, the guidelines for infection prevention,” Dooley said. 

“We continue to reinforce infection prevention protocols and work in partnership with the Putnam County Health Department and the CDC. Our hospital teams are well trained, knowledgeable and prepared; PCMC will be able to respond accordingly to any COVID-19 impacts, while keeping the safety of our patients, staff, physicians and visitors the top priority.”

While hospital supplies may be stable, LifeSouth Community Blood Center in Palatka is need of blood donors.

Laura Bialeck, district community development coordinator, said when virus fears heightened in March, LifeSouth experienced a dramatic decrease in blood donations. 

“The cancellations were skyrocketing,” Bialeck said. “We still need blood donors. Blood donors are considered essential.”

“We have already seen a significant decrease in donations as the outbreak progresses and are facing a critical public health risk if the blood supply continues to decline,” said Dr. Chris Lough, LifeSouth’s Vice President of Medical Services, in a press release. 

Blood donations will still be taken during the virus and a release said coronavirus does not cause risk to blood donors during the donation processes. 

Residents are encouraged to self-isolate and follow CDC guidelines such as handwashing often and coughing or sneezing into a tissue.

City Commission to meet

The Palatka City Commission plans to meet 4 pm. today at City Hall to discuss the city’s direction on COVID-19.

City Manager Bill Shanahan also announced all city buildings are closed to the public except for emergency situations. Visitors to city buildings will be asked a series of questions and why their situation is an emergency. The city is asking residents to contact departments via phone, email or fax.

Meanwhile, many restaurants in Putnam County were busy with takeout orders Monday and cars were lined up in drive-thru lanes. Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered restaurants to close dining areas Friday and only be open for takeout or delivery. 

Grocery stores and gas stations were also busy Monday.

As the virus continues to be a problem in Florida, an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis, forced all state parks to close Monday, including Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka. 

According to the Department of Environmental Protection’s website, the agency said it did everything it could to prevent parks from closing, including changing park hours in Florida to 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

However, the DEP said the precautions weren’t enough and closed all state parks. DeSantis didn’t say when the parks would re-open.

“Thank you for your understanding as we take action to keep park staff and visitors safe and healthy,” said Eric Draper, Florida Park Service director.

Ravine Gardens State Park has canceled all of its events for the foreseeable future. It is not canceling its construction plans, though.

“As far as we know, that will continue, but that can change,” park manager Terri Newmans said.

According to Newmans, the 10-week construction project was originally scheduled to begin March 5, but it was delayed until today due to delay in drainage pipe manufacturing.

Newmans said the project will cause parts of the park to close, including the interior trails, the bottom portion of the ravine system and a majority of the paved trails in the park. She said the construction will repair erosion damage caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

DeSantis also mandated nonessential medical visits be postponed and unnecessary business to close.