It’s been a day of grim records in Flagler County and the nation as the coronavirus accelerates even as vaccines are slowly–but too slowly–propagating, and drying up, for now, in Flagler.
The last of Flagler County’s available Covid-19 vaccines will be administered Monday, drying up a supply of some 1,100 doses outside the local hospital and pharmacies supplying assisted living facilities and nursing homes (which have its own but very restricted supply). County officials don’t know when the next batch of vaccine doses will be delivered, and expect that next batch to be smaller than the 500 they received last Monday.
The supply “is effectively depleted,” Jonathan Lord, the county’s emergency management chief, said today. “We have no idea” when it’ll be replenished. “The state cannot tell us what they’re able to give us yet because they haven’t gotten their allocation from the federal government yet. My gut is, it’s going to be even less.” The small amounts of available vaccines and the strict protocols associated with the doses–only first responders with direct contact with patients and people 65 and over are eligible–have frustrated residents and triggered heaps of criticism of local officials, though Lord insisted, accurately, that “It’s nobody’s fault there’s not enough doses.”
At least not locally. The federal government’s rollout has been flawed, and the Trump administration has been in chaos, its governance reduced to a minimum, leaving states and local governments to contend with–and improvise over–the consequences of the most serious public health crisis in a century. (Lord outlined the county’s response and what may be expected ahead with vaccine registrations and the like here.)
Flagler’s Covid case load broke another single-week record for the fourth straight week, totaling 341 cases so far this week (more cases in six days than in the first 20 weeks of the pandemic), with one more reporting day to go in the week. The county has confirmed 1,180 cases in the past four weeks–more than a quarter of Flagler County’s total of 4,173 cases since March. The Florida Department of Health today increased Flagler’s death toll due to Covid to 50, a figure FlaglerLive has been reporting since late December based on internal health department documentation of the tally, which differs from the state’s total. So it’s not clear if the state had adjusted its figure, or if it was a new death–bringing the actual total for Flagler to 51.
“Now is not the time to be complacent in any way, shape or form,” Bob Snyder, the Flagler Health Department’s director, said late this afternoon. But local shops, restaurants, parks, the beach and other public venues have been seemingly as busy as if it were 2019, following holiday travel and gatherings that anticipated the exponential surge in cases.
Flagler’s positivity rate is now at a staggering 13.3 percent, “an indication that in addition to the doubling of the confirmed cases, we have widespread disease in our community,” Snyder said, “and we attribute this to exactly what people have been predicting, the cases related to new year’s and holiday celebrations, people traveling. It spreads amongst us. We are doing our best to keep up with the case investigations and contact tracing and distributing all the vaccines that we have, as well as community testing and keeping public health services continuing for the community. We still have not heard from the state as to what our allocation is if any for next week, and if we do get an allocation, it will be minimal.”
Lord and Snyder will be appearing before the County Commission Monday morning to provide an update–and urge more vigilance against a growing but dangerous paradox: some people are concluding that because vaccines are propagating, the emergency is over. That is not the case by any stretch of the imagination, Snyder said, as the amount of vaccinations remains minimal–just 443,600 in Flor less than 2 percent of the population, and just 2,500 in Flagler, most of those in hospitals, among first responders and in long-term care facilities.
In a sign of worsening local conditions, Flagler Beach government today announced it was shutting down City Hall and administrative offices, including the building department, until Jan. 19, as interim City Manager and at least one other person in the Building Department came down with Covid-19.
“Yesterday afternoon I was advised that I have tested positive for the Coronavirus,” Robert McFadden, the interim manager, said in a statement today. “While I am feeling mild effects of the virus, I am resting, upbeat and following the advice of medical professionals. I will remain quarantined at home until I can fully recover and return to work when it is absolutely safe to do so.” City offices are to be cleaned. McFadden was acting as both manager and chief building official, so he would have been infectious in both locations.
“At the present, the City intends to proceed with all meetings scheduled in the Commission Chambers during this period with appropriate procedures to protect the health and safety of the public, elected officials, and staff being observed,” the statement continued. A city commission meeting is scheduled for next week, on Thursday.
Flagler’s trend has been worsening for weeks, but the trend in many other Florida counties is worse. In the state, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has refused to impose any restrictions since returning the state to a full, open economy in late summer, new cases totaled almost 20,000 on a single day, the second-worst total after the 31,518 confirmed on Jan. 2, though the Jan. 2 figure included two days’ worth, because of the New Year holiday. In effect, Florida broke a new single-day record on Thursday. The national number was just shy of a December record, with 280,300 cases in a single day, and 4,112 deaths in one day–a record, totaling 367,000 deaths.
AdventHealth Palm Coast had 21 patients with a primary diagnosis of Covid-19, also a record, according to this morning’s figures issued by the state Agency for Health Care Administration. AdventHealth’s hospitals throughout central Florida have been under increasing strain from Covid cases. On Wednesday, the hospital network’s Central Florida region went on “Red Status,” which institutes a strict triage system for a variety of cases.
“The number of Covid-19 inpatient volumes at AdventHealth facilities across the Central Florida Division has continued to climb and the clinical team has determined that AdventHealth facilities in the Central Florida Division will move to Red Status, effective immediately,” division President and CEO David Ottati, a former CEO of AdventHealth Palm Coast,w rite physicians in the system in a letter obtained by FlaglerLive. “However, cases already scheduled for this week will be reviewed by the campus chief medical officer and/or department chair to determine whether local resources are adequate to proceed.”
Ottati outlined Red Status conditions, which defer certain procedures and require “Preapproval for all non-time-sensitive/urgent or non-emergent inpatient procedures” and amplify oversight by the chief medical officer.
While pressure has been growing on local officials to provide vaccines, officials have also become aware of a trend among a number of Flagler County’s first responders–firefighter-paramedics especially–who, despite their chiefs presenting arms to be inoculated, have been refusing the syringe, at least for now.
Lord acknowledged the trend. “It’s like many things in life, a lot of folks aren’t comfortable being the first,” he said, “and even in our community nobody is the first, the people in the trials are the first. That’s OK, when they’re ready, we’ll make sure that they are taken care of.” Speaking on WNZF this morning, Dr. Stephen Bickel, the medical director at the Volusia and Flagler health departments, said the reluctance is not a concern but rather a natural and common reaction to a new protocol, and that its silver lining for now means that it leaves more vaccines for others.
The Florida Department of Health in Flagler County (DOH-Flagler) has confirmed its weekday COVID-19 testing schedule for the second week of January.
There will be no daily testing at Flagler County Fairgrounds’ Cattleman’s Hall, which has become the health department’s primary site for COVID-19 vaccinations. However, since vaccines doses remain in short supply, vaccine appointments are not available at this time. Flagler County Emergency Management and the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County will notify the public and local media channels as this situation changes.
Drive through COVID-19 testing across from 120 Airport Road is offered Monday through Thursday between 1:30PM and 3PM. No appointments are necessary, and flu shots are available upon request.
Reminder, these are NOT rapid tests. Results are available in 2 to 3 days.
Testing also returns to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church Friday mornings.
MONDAY, JANUARY 11
1:30 to 3PM
TUESDAY, JANUARY 12
1:30 to 3PM
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13
1:30 to 3PM
THURSDAY, JANUARY 14
1:30 to 3PM
FRIDAY, JANUARY 15
9 to 10:30AM
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church
4600 Belle Terre Parkway Palm Coast
No afternoon testing
There are other locations in Flagler County that provide COVID-19 testing on weekends, including two Mediquick locations, CentraCare and CVS Pharmacies. Please confirm with each site in advance as most require appointments.
COVID-19 health-related questions should be directed to a healthcare provider or the Florida Health hotline at 866-779-6121. Additional information can be found at floridahealthcovid19.gov/.