Clay County works on flattening curve, addressing long-term care COVID-19 cases

Florida Department of Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities in Clay County

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Clay County continues to drive home the point about social distancing and is following every protocol to try and reduce the number of positive COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities.

The Florida Department of Health reported Thursday evening that Clay County had 18 positive tests for COVID-19 at long-term facilities in the county, a number that ranks 10th in the state. According to the DOH, there were 578 cases in residents or staff of long-term care facilities across the state.

Heather Huffman, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Clay County, said that the process for working on that continues to be a priority.

“We continue to work with, AHCA the Agency for Healthcare Administration, they’re the agency that licenses and inspects those facilities we continue to work with them and do blank assessments if we have any staff or residents that become positive out of those facilities,” Huffman said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. “We look at their infection control practices, how they’re donning and doffing PPE (personal protective equipment), how they’re screening and assessing their staff coming into the facility, and then also just doing those contact tracings with those individuals within the facilities that become positive."

As of Thursday night, according to the state Department of Health, there were 110 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Clay County with seven deaths -- one of the highest death rates in Florida. The health department would not say how many of those victims lived in nursing homes because it would reveal patients’ home addresses.

News4Jax reached out to a Clay County nursing home that acknowledged being visited by the health department.

“All of our residents and staff have been tested for COVID-19," said the nursing home, which would not reveal any test results.

Huffman said they approve of the approach to test everyone, but it’s not a requirement.

“The fear I have with testing everyone that are asymptomatic is that if they get a negative and they have a false sense of security because you tested on say 4/1 but then you get the results on 4/8. What happened during that time frame?” Huffman said.

In a report from a joint task force with Duval County, the joint task force on March 25 recorded two cases of the coronavirus at a facility in Clay County, one of which was fatal.

“Most of them are in really really good shape. For the few that we have been in and doing assessments, along with AHCA who does these inspections and assessments on a regular routine basis with these facilities,” Huffman said.

She said it is possible they’ll bring the strike team back, and the option is never off the table depending on possible outbreaks versus single cases.

Among other items of merit emerging from Thursday’s news conference:

• John Ward, director of emergency management for Clay County, thanked residents for doing their part to flatten the curve, so area hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. He said the peak should be around the week of April 21, but warns there will be a backside to the recovery, with more cases. He said there won’t be a light switch flipped and they all go away. Ward asked people to maintain their physical distance during Easter and Passover worshiping, and said if people need services at the courthouse, they should call ahead to avoid long lines. Young people should not hang out in large numbers.

“The modeling as we’ve talked about, we’ve talked about flattening the curve. Clay County citizens, what you guys are doing are helping. We are flattening the curve. The unfortunate thing, and this is by flattening the curve, it’s making it last longer. We’re still going to have the same amount of cases but what we’re not doing is we’re not overwhelming our healthcare systems our hospitals our ventilators those type things. So it’s enabled us to manage what we’ve got in theater within the county.”

• The parks and boat ramps remain open and are being patrolled by deputies.

• Food banks have been busy in Clay County, jumping to more than 17,000 meals distributed.

“Our food banks last week fed 8,980 people. The school’s fed 6,567 meals. The senior meals from the senior centers fed 1,548, for a total of 17,095 individual meals that were handed out to citizens within our community. And I want to say that we’re seeing this continually rise on a weekly basis and we’re prepared to support it. … There should not be a citizen in Clay County that does not have food or does not have the support they have.”

• Clay County will cut its COVID-19 news conference meetings to once per week, beginning next Wednesday. It had been holding two. If there should be any reason to add to that, the county would adjust accordingly, Ward said.

About the Authors: