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Clay County Hoping To Get Back To ‘Some Sort Of Normalcy’ By Memorial Day

A police officer directing cars.
Wilfredo Lee
Associated Press
A police officer directing cars.

Leaders in Clay County are hoping to get back to “some sort of normalcy” by Memorial Day.

At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Director of Emergency Management John Ward said they have already started planning a Memorial Day BBQ, but it will only happen if people commit to social distancing.

“We’re starting to see a little bit of complacency,” he said. “Remember: six feet in between us, no groups of 10 or more, and don’t be complacent as time goes on. Remain calm. We’re going to get through this, Clay County.”

As of Wednesday morning, Clay County had 170 confirmed cases of COVID-19, nine related deaths and 39 hospitalizations. Thus far, 2,244 tests have been conducted in the county, which has an estimated population of 219,252, according to 2019 census data

The county’s mortality rate of 5.3% is nearly double the statewide average.

“We’ve been very unfortunate in this, in Clay County, that it has impacted individuals that have had underlying medical conditions and that has resulted in a poor outcome. That is why our numbers are where they’re at,” said Heather Huffman, Administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Clay County.

“I know that it hasn't been easy. But please stay at home, physical distance yourself from others, and venture out only to conduct essential services and activities. We must continue to protect those that are most vulnerable,” said Howard Wanamaker, Clay County Manager.

The county does have positive cases in nursing home facilities, but Ward said they won’t be releasing names or numbers.

However, the county is working closely with state and facility leadership on managing cases, working with patients, and testing.

A state incident management team is now working in Clay County and will continue to do so for the next 30 days, according to Ward. The team has been assigned to the Clay County Emergency Operations Center and is made up of four incident management team members, 21 nurses split up to help with testing at various facilities, and three infection preventionists.

The county also announced it would be starting an online registration system for food banks by the end of this week or the beginning of next week. People will also be able to register over the phone.

“That's going to enable us to start tracking our numbers,” explained Ward. “As we're working with our state and federal partners, they really want numbers and justification. So we're really trying to help provide that justification. This is not going to be sharing any of your personal information, I just need to prove numbers.”

Last week, food banks fed an estimated 6,665 people in Clay County.

The county will also start hosting pop up produce giveaways. To volunteer call 877-252-9362.

Ward warned that it’s still not clear when coronavirus cases will peak in the region.

“We just want to make our citizens understand that this is still going to take a few weeks,” he said. “And then when we get to that peak here in Clay County, it's not going to shut off like a light switch. It is going to take a few weeks on the backside to start getting into that recovery mode.”

Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

Special Projects Producer Brendan Rivers joined WJCT News in August of 2018 after several years as a reporter and then News Director at Southern Stone Communications, which owns and operates several radio stations in the Daytona Beach area.