Nassau COVID-19 numbers remain low

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Nassau County’s COVID-19 statistics are continuing to improve, the director of the county’s health department said at the Wednesday meeting of the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners, but she also expressed concern about what those numbers might look like after the upcoming holiday season, a time when families and friends traditionally crowd into retail stores for holiday shopping, travel extensively to be with relatives, and spend long periods of time together in close quarters.

“As of today, there have been 2,535 COVID-19 cases in our community – 2,346 that are residents and 189 non-Florida residents. Public health has released 2,108 (individuals) today, which leaves an active caseload of 238,” Florida Department of Health in Nassau County Director Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel told commissioners. “There were 84 cases in the past week and our percent positivity for the past week was 3.77%, which decreased from 5.8% for the week before.”

Ngo-Seidel did report that another death related to COVID-19 was announced Oct. 30, bringing the total number of deaths in Nassau County to 52 and resulting in a 2% death rate.

In addition, Ngo-Seidel said three patients battling COVID-19 symptoms are currently admitted at Baptist Medical Center Nassau but none are in ICU. One Nassau County resident is also in a Jacksonville hospital, she said.

Ngo-Seidel also announced that mobile testing will take place 9:30-11 a.m. every Thursday throughout November, except on Thanksgiving Day, at the Journey Church, 95707 Amelia Concourse in Yulee. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are free and available to anyone age 5 or older. 

“We encourage those who are symptomatic and those who have been exposed to come and get tested,” she said.

Flu vaccinations were another of Ngo-Seidel’s talking points Wednesday. 

“Our department is going to be working on messaging with our business partners and the (Nassau County Chamber of Commerce) that really will help to prepare them for the upcoming year in terms of protecting their workforce,” she said. “We know that this is flu season and that is starting to rise. We have COVID (and) we have holidays, so it’s very important to prevent staffing shortages especially during the next few weeks and months. Our message f
or the week is to continue to encourage flu vaccinations. It’s not too late.”

Ngo-Seidel said the county health department is waiting to see how last week’s Halloween celebrations might affect case rates in the county and again expressed that people need to choose safe methods for celebrating holidays. She urged anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine and call the health department if they have not already been contacted. She noted that a lot of rapid antigen tests are returning results very quickly, allowing individuals to quickly take proactive measures.

County Attorney Mike Mullin advised county commissioners that Gov. Ron DeSantis has extended Florida’s state of emergency, which was originally declared March 9 in Executive Order 10-52, for another 60 days. DeSantis made that decision Tuesday. Mullin also informed the commissioners that Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees similarly extended his declaration of a public health emergency for another 60 days on Oct. 23. He made his original declaration March 1.

Prior to the start of Wednesday afternoon’s meeting, commissioners held a closed-door meeting with attorney Robert Farnell II of Bedell, Dittmar, DeVault, Pillans & Coxe, P.A., acting as outside counsel for Mullin and the county, to discuss an ongoing lawsuit filed by Raydient Places + Properties LLC.

Raydient, the development arm of Rayonier Inc., has alleged that Mullin, who previously held his current position with the county before stepping away for several years and representing Rayonier and Raydient during their negotiations with the county to build Wildlight, has breached his fiduciary duty by using knowledge he gained while representing the developer to assist Nassau County in its battle over who should pay to build and maintain recreational facilities in the new development.

The complaint previously only named Mullin as a defendant, but an amended version that details specific allegations against the attorney also added the county to the suit,
which says the BOCC “has aided and abetted Defendant Mullin in the breach of his fiduciary duties.”

On Oct. 20, Fourth Judicial Circuit Court Judge James Daniel denied a motion by Mullin and the county to dismiss the case.