Nassau positivity rate continues to rise

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  • Nassau County Emergency Management Director Greg Foster addresses the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners meeting Monday. GARY D. MORGAN/FOR THE NEWS-LEADER
    Nassau County Emergency Management Director Greg Foster addresses the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners meeting Monday. GARY D. MORGAN/FOR THE NEWS-LEADER
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Three more people in Nassau County have died from COVID-19 in the past week as the county’s positivity rate jumped nearly 45%, according to statistics presented at the Nassau County Board of County Commissioner’s regular meeting Monday.

Speaking in place of Florida Department of Health – Nassau Director Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel, who was absent from the meeting, Nassau County Emergency Management Director Greg Foster also said five people suffering from COVID-19 are hospitalized at Baptist Medical Center Nassau with another in a Jacksonville hospital. One of the five at Baptist Nassau is in the ICU, he said.

“Our current case count for COVID-19 in Nassau County is 3,162 cases – 2,904 are Nassau County residents, 258 are non-Florida residents. There are currently 2,445 (that have been) released from isolation with an estimated 459 active cases in residents. The percent of positivity ticked up from last week to 11.17%, which is up from 7.78%,” Foster said.

The FDOH – Nassau has scheduled the following mobile drive-thru sites in December to conduct free testing for anyone ages 5 and older:

• 9:30-11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, 10 and 17, Journey Church, 95707 Amelia Concourse in Fernandina Beach.

• 3-5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8, Callahan First Baptist Church, 45090 Green Ave. in Callahan.

• 8-10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, 1200 Elm St. in Fernandina Beach.

• 9:30-11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22, Fernandina First Baptist Church, 1600 S. Eighth St. in Fernandina Beach.

• 9:30-11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 29, Yulee First Baptist Church, 85971 N. Harts Road in Yulee.

“Anyone who gets tested should expect to get a text message with instructions on how to get the results through a new statewide health department app called ‘Healthy Together,’” Foster explained and added that Seidel is urging residents to have a flu vaccination as soon as possible “to help protect yourself and your loved ones from the potentially severe complications of influenza.”

He also said Seidel wants residents to avoid crowds and large gatherings, stay 6 feet apart from each other as much as possible, wear a mask, wash their hands, stay home if they are ill or are in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases and get tested if they have symptoms or have been exposed to the virus.

Pivoting to his own department’s role, Foster shared that Nassau County Emergency Management has so far this year issued 266,000 washable cloth masks, 87,000 disposable procedural masks, 9,000 N95 masks, 2,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, 29,000 gloves, 4,300 face shields and 11,000 surgical gowns.

He also explained the Emer-gency Management department has created a Facebook group where COVID-19 statistics are shared in place of posting them on the department’s main Facebook page. To view that group page, visit https://bit.ly/33vS7Ks.

The commissioners did not make any comments during or after Foster’s presentation, but later in the meeting, Commissioner John Martin discussed the statistics and
wanted to know if there is a way to determine where coronavirus cases are happening in the county.

“I am sure you’re getting the same emails and phone calls that I am getting about the percentage of positivity ticking up. … Is there any way to drill down into where the percent of positivity is?” Martin asked.

“The city has the mask mandate in place and the county does not. … Is their percent positivity similar to what’s happening in the county? Is the county – without a mask mandate – higher than the city? Lower? I don’t know if there is a way to drill down into that,” he said. “I don’t know if they take personal information like where folks live when they get tested and if that’s attached to the results. I think it will give us a better idea of how to go forward countywide.”

Commissioner Thomas Ford and County Attorney Mike Mullin said Seidel had indicated in previous commission meetings that kind of detail isn’t available due to HIPPA restrictions that protect patient privacy.

Foster explained test results are grouped by ZIP codes only and said comparing positivity in the city of Fernandina Beach and the county would be difficult if not impossible because the city’s 32034 ZIP code also covers the unincorporated area of the island and a wide swath of mainland. However, he said he would consult with
Seidel regarding additional information.

The commissioners voted unanimously to extend the county’s state of emergency related to COVID-19 through Wednesday, Dec. 9. The resolution has been in effect since March 18. State law requires local governments to renew states of emergency every seven days.

The BOCC also approved a list of staff-recommended legislative priorities for 2021-22 ahead of the planned Nassau County Legislative Delegation public meeting planned for Monday, Dec. 7. Those priorities include the following:

• A request for $1.2 million in grant funding from the state to finance half the cost of the planned well and septic phase out at American Beach in order to “to reduce the principal loan amount on which the annual assessment will be based so as to reduce the financial burden on this small disadvantaged coastal community that is vulnerable to storm surge. … The reduction of the ($2.4 million) principal loan amount will significantly reduce the assessment charged to the individual property owners within this disadvantaged and vulnerable historic African-American coastal community.”

• A request for state appropriation for the 2021-22 fiscal year for the county’s Sheriff’s Work Ethics and Training program, which is designed to redirect at-risk youth through community service that uses physical labor rather than detention time as well as mentoring and academic assistance in order to reduce juvenile delinquency rates.

• A request for the state to explore helping the county to ensure the viability of the 40-mile-long County Road 121, which is used predominantly for freight traffic and facing an estimated $18.9 million resurfacing to fix conditions that range from “fair to poor.”