Mayor encourages Palatka residents to remain at home

  • Mayor Terrill Hill, City Manager Bill Shanahan and City Commissioner Rufus Borom talk about the precautions the city will take to combat the coronavirus Tuesday.
    Mayor Terrill Hill, City Manager Bill Shanahan and City Commissioner Rufus Borom talk about the precautions the city will take to combat the coronavirus Tuesday.
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Residents had to wait outside the City Annex on Tuesday due to guidelines about crowd size and the spread of the coronavirus as the Palatka City Commission met in an emergency session to determine the city’s response to the global health pandemic.

To adhere to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ orders, only 10 people were allowed into the commission room during the 4 p.m. meeting.

Mayor Terrill Hill encouraged Palatka residents to stay home to stop spreading the virus. He said there were multiple
large gatherings in the city last week that ignored DeSantis’ order.

To prevent any additional gatherings, city commissioners unanimously voted to postpone and cancel all recreational and city events for the foreseeable future.

Hill said local law enforcement will be disbanding any gatherings of more than 10 people.

“Violating the governor’s orders is a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine,” Police Chief Jason Shaw said.

Others, including public health officials, joined the meeting via conference call.

According to Mary Garcia, administrator of the state Department of Health in Putnam County, the health department has contacted everyone who could have
possibly had contact with the two positive cases known in Putnam County as of Friday evening.

“Surveillance is one of those things we do well,” Garcia said.

To help its citizens, commissioners unanimously decided to stop turning off residents’ gas and water until further notice because of late payments.

The commission also unanimously accepted a new protocol for city employees to deal with the coronavirus.
The commissioners enacted a travel ban that forbids any city employee from traveling internationally.

The travel ban states that any employee who travels overseas is subject to suspension and termination.

City Manager Bill Shanahan said all city employees are asked to report any time they travel outside the county.

According to Shanahan, five city employees have been asked to stay home due to exhibiting
symptoms of coronavirus.

“If any employee shows any sign of anything, they go home,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan said all employees who test positive for COVID-19 will not be allowed back to work until they have had two negative test results and no longer exhibit symptoms. He said employees will not be allowed to return to work until 72 hours after their symptoms go away, even if they test negative for
coronavirus.

To aid Shanahan, city commissioners unanimously agreed to create a part-time, temporary position to help him with the logistics of dealing with the virus. This individual would be responsible for getting personal protection equipment for city officials and keeping track of COVID-19’s economic impact the
county.

“It’s not just about planning for today,” Hill said. “It’s about planning on what this thing does three months from now or a month from now. We need to make sure we’re in a position where we’re prepared.”

Commissioner Rufus Borom added, “Just know we’re in uncharted territory right now.”