During a press conference Monday, Clay County officials stressed the importance of social distancing and said they were preparing for another six to eight weeks of taking precautions to try and stop the spread of coronavirus.
“The physical distancing that we’re seeing is working,” said John Ward, director of Emergency Management for Clay County. “We just ask that you continue to do this, over this next six to eight weeks, of maintaining groups of less than 10. And then also keeping that physical distance of six feet or more.”
As of Monday morning, the county had 81 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six related deaths. So far, 1,117 tests have been conducted on residents. According to census data, Clay County has about 220,000 residents.
In neighboring Duval County, which has an estimated population of more than 950,000, the number of COVID-19 tests totaled 7,827 at last check, with 475 of them yielding positive results.
Heather Huffman, director of the Clay County Health Department, said the county is not currently using rapid testing.
“I know the national news and some of your media outlets have been talking about the rapid tests that are coming out there and what's available. We currently are still using, through the Bureau of Public Health labs and the guidance from the Florida Department of Health, we're still continuing to use those PCR tests. Those are consistent and the most accurate, useful tests to drive public health and clinical actions,” she said.
“If you’re 65 and older, with any underlying medical conditions, you shall stay at home,” Ward said. “All of our citizens here in the county need to limit their movement except for essential services: going to the store, getting those groceries, going to work, whatever it may be. It’s just really trying to limit that movement to stop the spread.”
County parks and waterways remain open to the public, but both are being patrolled to enforce social distancing. Parks are being patrolled by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is patrolling waterways in the county. Boats are being asked to maintain at least 50 feet of separation from each other.
Ward also said the county is working with six local food banks to help provide a continuous supply of food.
“I'd like to thank our volunteer partners that are running those food banks for continually providing this service. As we know, this demand is going to increase. We're planning accordingly to increase the commodities that are coming out into our food banks so they can continue providing the needed food for our community,” he said.
Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order issued last week, religious services are considered essential – meaning individuals will be allowed to leave their homes to go to church. But Clay County Manager Howard Wanamaker urged residents to continue practicing social distancing, even if they attend a religious service.
“We really kind of left it up to the leadership of each church that's out there, but highly encourage them to follow the CDC guidelines for 10 and under for the capacity of their churches and houses of worships,” he said.
As an example, he pointed to churches that are conducting services in their parking lots, allowing parishioners to stay in their vehicles.
“We must all do our part to stop the spread of this virus and protect others, especially those most vulnerable. Please stay at home, unless it is absolutely necessary to venture out to fulfill essential services or conduct essential activities. We will all get through this together, and most importantly, recover faster if we all practice physical distancing,” Wanamaker said.
The latest information on COVID-19 in Clay County can be found at alert.ClayCountygov.com. The Clay County call center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day at 877-252-9362.