Volusia County Officials Found Rays Of Hope And Reasons For Optimism During COVID-19 Briefing

Volusia County officials found rays of hope and reasons for optimism during an approximately two-and-a-half-hour briefing Tuesday with the County Council on the county’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Council members were told Tuesday that there are slight signs of a levelling off of new cases and protective gear and hospital beds appear to be adequate to meet the need.

“We see here a slight leveling off, which gives us some optimism for how things are progressing,” said Dr. Randa Matusiak, a special projects coordinator with Volusia County Public Protection who has been crunching data and analyzing projections and information sources on a daily basis. “There’s a generalized trend upward, but there is maybe a little bit levelling off.”

To County Manager George Recktenwald, the hopeful signs are indicators that residents are complying with stay-at-home and social distancing directives and all the efforts – and sacrifices – are paying off.

“The reason that we’re getting some better projections now it’s not just the data,” said Recktenwald. “The data is representing of the fact that what we’re doing is working. We’re flattening that curve just like we were asked to do. We’re doing it.”

Dr. Matusiak was among approximately 15 key staffers who briefed council members Tuesday on the county’s ongoing efforts to mitigate the crisis. County Chair Ed Kelley said the information was evidence that the county is doing a good job managing the situation.

“I think that what we’ve seen today, everyone should be reassured that everything is in good hands, thoroughly being done and being taken care of,” Kelley said at the close of the meeting.

Here’s a summary of the information that came out of the council’s update on Tuesday regarding the actions, activities and initiatives that county government has undertaken in response to the COVID-19 outbreak:

 Public Protection
?    Continuing daily planning conference calls with cities, state agencies, first responder agencies and health agencies.
?    With the impending start of the hurricane season on June 1, Public Protection is developing a hurricane sheltering plan in conjunction with the School District that takes into account the possibility of COVID-19 still being present in the community.
?    Jail inmates are assisting with making masks.
?    The burn ban remains in effect.
?    Working with four local hotels to serve as non-congregate sheltering sites for public safety, healthcare workers and homeless individuals should they need to be isolated for a 14-day period.

?    The county’s logistics center operating out of the exhibit hall in the Ocean Center continues to distribute protective equipment to local hospitals, health care facilities, nursing homes and first responders that have submitted orders through the state for supplies such as N95 masks, isolation/procedure masks, face shields, goggles, gowns, gloves, shoe covers, coveralls and hand sanitizer.

Beach Safety
?    As of Monday, Beach Safety personnel had issued three written citations and in excess of 1,300 verbal warnings enforcing the rules regarding physical activities permitted on Volusia County beaches.
?    Monitoring beach conditions daily through use of a drone.

    Medical Examiner
?    With the assistance of public health, screening for COVID-19 on all cases reported to the Medical Examiner’s Office and all cremation requests.

    Emergency Medical Services
?    The number of medical calls for service and ambulance transports have declined.

    Community Services
?    The county has provided $70,000 in grant funds to the Second Harvest Food Bank to assist with food needs. The funds are being shared among four community organizations – Halifax Urban Ministries, Food Brings Hope, the Neighborhood Center and the Jewish Federation. In the past three weeks, the organizations combined have delivered more than 3,800 bags of food.
?    A COVID-19 positive homeless plan has been completed and is now in place.
?    Community Services along with Human Resources has organized a series of sewing rooms where employees are making masks to supply to county employees to keep them safe and on the job serving the public. More than 60 employees are involved in the effort and 177 masks have been completed so far.

    Boat Ramps
?    While county boat ramps remain open, an executive order enacted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) limits recreational vessel occupancy to no more than 10 people per-vessel and requires a minimum distance of 50 feet between recreational vessels. The FWC and Volusia Sheriff’s Office’s Marine Patrol Unit didn’t report any violations over the holiday weekend.

?    Since March 23, Votran’s weekday fixed route ridership has been 52% of normal ridership and Votran Gold weekday ridership has been 32% of its normal ridership.

    Community Information
?    Organizing a panel discussion for 10 a.m. on Friday, April 17 addressing assistance that’s available for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The event will be broadcast live on Facebook.
?    Social media posts in the past week generated by Community Information resulted in a reach of more than 230,000 and engagements in excess of 74,000.

    Coastal Division
?    Reviewing options for compensating annual beach pass holders due to the temporary beach closure, such as extending the duration of the pass to compensate for the days that the passes couldn’t be used.

    Daytona Beach International Airport
?    Approximately half of all flights have been cancelled, resulting in an average daily passenger count of 157, compared to approximately 2,200 passengers per-day last year.
?    Twenty airport tenants have made requests to have their rental fees either deferred, reduced or waived.
?    Airport terminal and taxiway renovation projects that are under way remain on schedule.

    Information Technology
?    Facilitating expanded use of virtual meetings.
?    Providing technology to enable many county employees to telework.

    Facilities Management
?    Additional day porters have been added to clean touch surfaces through the business day.
?    Special cleaning before and after public meetings and training classes.

    Purchasing & Contracts
?    Processed the purchase of more than 8,000 masks/face shields, 2,500 bottles of hand sanitizer, nine disinfecting fogger systems and 50 infrared, no-touch thermometers.

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