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UPDATE: Two school employees among growing COVID-19 cases

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times
The Apalach Times

Franklin County’s number of positive cases have risen sharply, with 21 reported since Friday, for a total of 47 residents diagnosed since the coronavirus pandemic entered the county in late March.

Two of the cases were among employees of the Franklin County school district, as reported in a Monday afternoon news release.

“Both employees were asymptomatic and took immediate steps to mitigate the spread after receiving test results,” it read. “All employees having direct contact with those who tested positive have been required to voluntarily self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.

In addition, the Carrabelle city commission Thursday afternoon unanimously approved a mayoral proclamation that “strongly encourages all persons to wear facial coverings when indoors in businesses and other establishments, including government offices, within the city.”

Mayor Brenda La Paz said that after much discussion and a review of “exponentially increasing positive case numbers and positivity percentages in our county and surrounding areas, the commission made the decision to strongly encourage, but not require the wearing of facial coverings.”

Based on statistics posted by the Florida Department of Health, as of Tuesday afternoon, three cases has required hospitalization. There have been no deaths attributed in the county due to COVID-19.

So far, of the 1,735 people tested in the county, 1,687 have resulted in negative results, with just one of the 48 positives a non-resident.

The county’s median age is 56, well above the state median of 39, for the 28 females and 19 males who have tested positive.

The youngest positive case is between age 5 and 14, with four between the ages of 15 and 24, and seven between the ages of 25-34.

Three individuals are between age 35 and 44, seven between age 45 and 54, and 12 between age 55 and 64.

Six positive cases are between ages 65 and 74, six are between ages 75-84 and two are age 85 or older.

Geographically, the largest chunk of the cases, 19, are in the Apalachicola are, 14 are in the Eastpoint-St. George Island area, and 11 are in Carrabelle.

Sarah Hinds, director of the Florida Department of Health in Franklin County, told county commissioners last week she expected the county to see more cases.

The school district’s release reported that all work areas will be thoroughly cleaned on a continual basis to sanitize the facilities. “All employees have been informed of CDC guidelines and recommendations for precautionary measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” read. “If employees cannot maintain social distancing guidelines, masks are strongly encouraged.

The release went on to say that prior to the pandemic, the district began taking safety and security measures that will further mitigate the spread, such as bullet proofing the front office area, creating single points of entry, and minimizing non-essential visitors on campus.

Superintendent Traci Yoder and the district staff have worked in conjunction with the county health department leaders in following the recommended protocols. “Our campuses remain open for business, limiting non-essential services and visitors on our campuses. Please be aware that safety protocols are in place to ensure the safety of our team and our visitors,” she said.

To continue to serve students, staff, and community, staff is available by phone at 670-2810, and updates will be posted online at www.franklincountyschools.org.

“Our district leadership team will continue to work with our local and state agencies to plan and prepare to safely welcome our students and staff back on campus,” Yoder said, noting that the Florida Department of Health serves as lead entity to conduct COVID-19 investigations.

She said staff and students will be able to return to school when cleared by public health officials. Quarantine or Isolation orders are available in writing for each individual involved in the investigation.

“The safety and well-being of our students and staff is our top priority and we want to assure you that all possible measures to maintain a safe learning environment will be taken,” Yoder said. “We appreciate your continued patience, support, and understanding as we work through this together.”

Carrabelle city commissioners also agreed at their meeting to close access to the public, effective Monday, July 13, to the City Hall lobby and other city buildings until further notice. Water and sewer customers and building permit clients are asked to use the dropbox in front of City Hall, pay by U.S. mail, or set up automatic payment arrangements online..

All public parks and playgrounds in Carrabelle remain open from sunrise to sunset until further notice. All public restrooms remain closed until further notice, with the exception of the restroom at Riverwalk Park where the public is advised to use at their own risk.

All water and sewer payments should be placed in the dropbox at the front of City Hall until further notice. Customers may continue to mail in their payments, automatic payment arrangements, or pay online at the City’s website.

For questions, please call the billing clerk at 697-3618, ext 101.

Clients may continue to apply for building permits online at the city’s website. For questions, please call City Clerk Keisha Messer at 697-3618, ext 103.

All city boat ramps remain open from sunrise to sunset.