Free COVID-19 tests offered

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  • Florida Department of Health – Nassau County workers tested residents at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in May. JULIA ROBERTS/NEWS-LEADER
    Florida Department of Health – Nassau County workers tested residents at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in May. JULIA ROBERTS/NEWS-LEADER
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The director of the county’s department of health told the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners Wednesday that the number of officially counted positive cases of COVID-19 virus in the county had risen to 76 residents and seven non-residents as of Tuesday morning.

The positivity rate for the tests conducted to date is 1.8%, Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel said, and they estimate 5% of the community has now been tested. She added that no one is currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and 64 of the 76 county residents who tested positive have been released from isolation as of Friday, June 5.

The Florida Department of Health – Nassau County has released a schedule of free diagnostic testing dates and times through July. See the box with this story. Residents can also go to https://bit.ly/3d0JwBr for the schedule or call (904) 875-6100 for more information.

The testing dates could change due to weather or test kit availability. All the testing is outdoors and done on a first-come, first-served and drive-thru/walk-up basis.

Seidel said her department has also received cloth masks to distribute to churches and organizations that might need them.

“There’s been over 1,100 new cases in Florida, over the last few days, per day,” Commissioner Tom Ford said to Ngo-Seidel, “and is that concerning to you?”

Ngo-Seidel said as testing ramps up more positive tests will be counted, adding, “The other metric that we are looking at, to gauge the success, or a concern with reopening, are our hospitalization rates, our ICU and ventilator use, and I am happy to report for Nassau County that is down. ... Our other trends in regard to influenza-like illness and COVID-like illness through (Emergency Department) visits are stable and trending down. So, for Nassau County, I think that we are continuing to monitor and being cautious. But at this time, and particularly with the hospitalization rate, we are not in great concern. We will expect to see tests, and our tests, they average six to eight a week,” referring to the number of positive cases added to the official count since March.

As of Thursday morning, the official count was up to 86: 78 residents and eight non-residents, according to a post on the Nassau County Emergency Management Facebook page. The post said 64 of those 78 residents have been released from isolation by the health department.

Emergency Management director Greg Foster told the BOCC he is in the planning process for emergency shelters in the county in an environment requiring personal protective equipment during hurricane season.

The board then voted unanimously to extend the county’s state of emergency for another week.

They also voted unanimously to amend emergency Executive Order No. 4. County Manager and Attorney Mike Mullin explained the amendment takes Louisiana off of a short list of states where the residents, if they visit Nassau County’s hotels and vacation rentals, must isolate themselves after arrival. The other states are New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Information on those visitors is supposed to be turned over to the county’s Tourist Development Council for review. The News-Leader has requested copies of those official reports from the TDC’s managing director, Gil Langley.

Mullin told the commissioners his staff is negotiating the beach security contract with Giddens and he believed they can save some significant
money.

Mullin also went over a list of dates the BOCC will meet in July, assuring the commissioners that if they meet in the Chambers in Yulee there will be plastic shield devices and masks available. However, Mullin added, at this time the order of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowing them to meet remotely is still in effect and the commissioners “can continue to do it.”

In commissioner comments, all were in agreement that the county’s Road & Bridge Department did a great job handling the emergency repairs on some roads needed because of the large amount of rain received over the past week.

pegdavis@fbnewsleader.com