COVID-19: Wednesday a.m.

Time is Right

Sheriff David Morgan addressed the county commissioner yesterday while the board was debating when and how to reopen the beaches. He said he was reminded a quote by President John Kennedy when he gave an address at the commencement for Loyola College:

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the democratic answer, but the right answer. And let us not get bogged down in recriminations of decisions made in the past. But again, let us look forward to the right decisions of the future.”

The sheriff told the commissioners that they made the right decision on March 20, when the board closed the public beaches.

“I stand with you in that decision,” he said. “It was a difficult decision but it was the right decision.”

Sheriff Morgan added, “I think the swift and effective action that you took on that day has gotten us to where we are today. Now, having said that, let’s please continue to make right decisions. And one of the things that I would encourage the board to do is to not make decisions that are dumb decisions, and by that I mean things that are not important.”

He recommended that the board consider families when maintaining social distancing, pointing out that families travel to the beach together in cars and shouldn’t be forced to separate when they reach the beach.

“I think you need to open the beach completely,” said Sheriff Morgan. “Again, I’ve told many of you, you can’t be half pregnant. You create bottlenecks when you put specific hours there, which you’re going to encourage more traffic at different times, which then bleeds over into how do enforce anything that you put out there.”

He continued, “I would suggest to all of you that we’re at a juncture now in this, that unless you were literally living on another planet, we all know about hygiene now, hand washing, sanitation with the hand sanitizers. We know about social distancing, we know about wearing a mask if that’s something that makes us feel comfortable. There’s a time where, in governance, that we step back and say, ‘I’ve given you all the tools to complete this, and now it’s to coming upon you follow those directions.’ And I think that’s where we are.”

The sheriff requested the county administrator and the county attorney coordinate with our legal office and us what your final draft is before you vote on it.

“Allow us to put a hands up or hands down, and I will be very direct with you and letting you know what is and is not enforceable,” he said. “If you choose to continue to put it in there, then again, I would encourage strong public service announcements. All of you can do those on your television net to, again, let people know.”

The sheriff reminded that the beaches are be big draw for visitors to our area.

“People don’t drive from new Orleans and get a beach room to shop at target or to come over and shop at our Walmart -they come to the beaches,” he said. “And so by you cutting off the beach access, that outside influence that we know was spreading the virus was stopped by the actions that you took.”

Sheriff Morgan continued, “The beach is the draw, it is the matter. So now what you have to decide is do we open them in? I would encourage you, I think the time is right.”

Testing Buzz

Other local media picked our report that National Guard had started residents and staff at local nursing homes on Monday. Until this week, Ascension Sacred Heart had been doing the testing.

Sources at the hospital have shared that FDOH told the hospital to slow down on its nursing home testing because of a massive backlog at state labs. The nursing homes have refused to pay for private labs or the testing, according to our sources.

Meat Processing

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released a statement after President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order to keep meat and poultry processing facilities open during the COVID-19 national emergency. Purdue stated the nation’s meat and poultry processing facilities play an integral role in the continuity of our food supply chain.

“Maintaining the health and safety of these heroic employees in order to ensure that these critical facilities can continue operating is paramount,”said Secretary Perdue. “I also want to thank the companies who are doing their best to keep their workforce safe as well as keeping our food supply sustained. USDA will continue to work with its partners across the federal government to ensure employee safety to maintain this essential industry.”

Under the Executive Order and the authority of the Defense Production Act, USDA will work with meat processing to affirm they will operate in accordance with the CDC and OSHA guidance, and then work with state and local officials to ensure that these plants are allowed to operate. USDA will continue to work with the CDC, OSHA, FDA, and state and local officials to ensure that facilities implementing this guidance to keep employees safe can continue operating.

Last week, Tyson closed a pork-processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa—one of the nation’s biggest—after 180 employees tested positive for COVID-19. Late last week, the company announced it would test all 2,800 plant workers for the novel virus, according to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

Early in April, Tyson also closed a plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, for 2 weeks after hundreds of employees were infected, including two fatally. Iowa has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases within the past week, and recorded 349 new cases today, according to the Des Moines Register.

According to the Associated Press, about 25% of the nation’s meat packing plants have been shuttered within the last 2 weeks.

By NSF Staff

TALLAHASSEE — State agencies updated a variety of numbers Tuesday about the coronavirus in Florida. Here are some takeaways:

— 32,846: Total number of cases.

— 1,171: Deaths of Florida residents.

— 9: Percentage of positive test results.

— 1,941,807: Unemployment claims submitted from March 15 to Monday.

— 824,412: Confirmed “unique” claims, as some people file more than one claim.

— 392,051: Unemployment claimants paid.

— 523,495,662: Dollars paid to claimants.

— 37.5: Percentage of available hospital beds statewide.

— 44.8: Percentage of available hospital beds in Palm Beach County.

— 32.2: Percentage of available hospital beds in neighboring Broward County.

— 198: Prison inmates who have tested positive.

— 134: Corrections workers who have tested positive.

Sources: Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, Florida Department of Corrections.