County extends state of emergency another week

  • Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel holds up a chart parents and coaches can use to screen athletes before they attend practices and games. The Florida Department of Health – Nassau has also created one for students. GARY D. MORGAN/FOR THE NEWS-LEADER
    Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel holds up a chart parents and coaches can use to screen athletes before they attend practices and games. The Florida Department of Health – Nassau has also created one for students. GARY D. MORGAN/FOR THE NEWS-LEADER

The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners heard Wednesday about the latest official numbers of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and COVID-19-related deaths in the county as of Monday.

Under new business was the unanimous approval of a resolution extending the current state of emergency in Nassau County due to COVID-19. The county first declared the local state of emergency on March 18. Florida law requires the resolution be extended every seven days while the emergency exists.

Speaking remotely via Zoom videoconferencing technology, Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel, director of the county health department, said the period she would report on was up to Oct.5 and verified Oct. 6. “There was a total case count of 2,195, of those 2,044 were Nassau County residents and 161 were non-Florida residents,” Ngo-Seidel said. “The number of cases released by public health as of yesterday was 1,822, for an estimated active case count of 222 individuals present in our community. Our percent positivity for the week ending October 4th was 5.88, a slight increase from the week before (4.96).

“Hospitalizations since my last report to you, we’ve had five additional hospitalizations for a total of 164 to date. We also had three additional deaths for a total of 48 year to date.

“Currently, in Baptist Nassau, we have two hospitalized individuals – one in ICU and one on the regular floor. In Jacksonville, we have one additional hospitalization.”

Ngo-Seidel added that her department would offer a free coronavirus testing opportunity from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in Fernandina Beach. Testing is also scheduled at The Journey Church, located at 95707 Amelia Concourse in Fernandina Beach, on Oct. 15, 22, and 29. It is also scheduled at Hilliard First Baptist Church, located at 15850 County Road 108, on Oct. 24. Call (904) 875-6100 for more information.

She also reiterated “key messages,” including promoting flu vaccinations, “often free – at no charge, again as a protective measure for all of us” and then what the department of health has learned from studying their cases.

“We’ve seen some individuals that have gone to work with no symptoms or school. It is very, very important that everyone take their role in self screening before going anywhere.

“We have developed some tools that we will be sharing with the community.

“One is basically a simple screening chart that you would do every day. Ask yourself if you have symptoms, and if you have any symptoms of COVID, then you should not go to work, school, daycare, sporting events or group gatherings. You should stay home; you should isolate, and you should get tested.

“Public health’s role is to identify cases, notify contacts, and to give instructions to those who are positive and who have been contacted to take the protective actions they should take. So, if you are in isolation and in quarantine, you’re doing it at home away from others including those in your own household as much as possible and to do so until you are released by public health. By following these measures everyone can do their part to reduce the spread of COVID and as we see on a national level anyone can be exposed to COVID so it’s very important to do our part.”

Nassau County Emergency Management Director Greg Foster said his team continues to push out COVID-19-related information from the Florida Department of Health and the CDC in reference to guidelines. Foster said his department’s storage capacity for personal protective equipment is expanding.

He updated the BOCC on Hurricane Delta, anticipated to hit the Louisiana coast Saturday morning.

“It is going to be a major hurricane. It’s going to be a bad situation for them over there. We are working with the regional (Incident Management Team) to start to be able to put together a team to respond to it if we are asked to do so.”

There were two consent items on the agenda. The first was to accept the 2019 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant for $1,711,008. Nassau County Fire & Rescue was approved for a grant in the amount of $570,336.12 per year for a three-year period for nine firefighter positions to “assist in increasing the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry minimum standards, to provide adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards and to fulfill traditional missions of fire departments.”

In the application for the grant, it said the fiscal year operating budget for Nassau County Fire & Rescue is $18,689,413. The operating budget is paid with taxes (89.9%) and EMS billing (9.1%). “Nassau County Fire Rescue is a career fire department currently comprised of 123 riding positions. The operational work periods are 24-hour shifts, with one day on and two days off, for a 53-hour work week,” according to the materials. “This places 41 personnel on shift each day. We currently have 7 fire stations covering over 720 square miles. We anticipate expanding to 9 stations over the next 36 months.”

The acceptance was passed unanimously with no discussion. Chairman Danny Leeper congratulated both Fire Chief Brady Rigdon and Assistant Fire Chief Greg Roland.

The second consent item was “Approve and authorize the Chairman to sign the necessary forms to provide unlimited signing authority for County Manager, Taco E. Pope, and return Michael S. Mullin’s signing authority to $5,000.” This item also passed unanimously with no discussion.

There was one “county manager” item on the agenda, to approve the scheduling of a public hearing during a day meeting of the board to amend Ordinance 2020-26, the American Beach Water and Sewer District. That item was approved for Oct. 28 during a special meeting already scheduled for 9 a.m. This item was passed unanimously with no discussion. Pope also mentioned he would update the commissioners next Wednesday on the CARES Act and inform them on how “we’re going to get to the finish line with the game plan.”

There were two comments offered from commissioners. Commissioner Pat Edwards said he received a letter giving accolades to the Nassau County Road & Bridge Department for handling potholes on Pages Dairy Road, and Leeper spoke about the removal of a tree by a county right-of-way, commended the department for their work on that, as well as quick work on a pothole on Sadler Road.