Leon County COVID-19 Operational Update

Thursday, March 12, 2020 | 

March 12, 2020

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread with more than 120,000 cases globally, Leon County Emergency Management is committed to actively monitoring the disease and coordinating preparedness efforts with local health officials, healthcare providers, first responders, and other critical emergency response functions. On Tuesday, March 10 at 8 a.m., Leon County activated the Emergency Operations Center by request of the Florida Department of Health in Leon County to assist in convening agencies, providing coordination, and aligning public information efforts.

While no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Leon County, and while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ruled Florida an area of low risk, now is the best time for residents and businesses to prepare.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Florida Department of Health is the lead agency and County Emergency Management serves in support of the local health experts.

 

Significant Changes Since Last Update

  • State health experts and Governor recommend limiting or canceling mass gatherings. This recommendation comes from the Florida Department of Health and was issued by Governor Ron DeSantis at a press conference. For us at Leon County, consistent with the recommendation, we have postponed Leon Works and other similar events until further notice. Also, County Emergency Management is strongly encouraging local event organizers to consider limiting or canceling mass events in Leon County at this time.
  • Springtime Tallahassee and Word of South canceled due to COVID-19.
  • Newsboys and Jamey Johnson concerts at the Capital City Amphitheater canceled.
  • Malicious website pretending to be global COVID-19 map. A malicious website pretending to be the live map for Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins University is circulating on the internet waiting for unwitting internet users to visit the website. Visiting the website infects the user with the AZORult trojan, an information stealing program which can exfiltrate a variety of sensitive data. It is likely being spread via infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, and social engineering. Furthermore, anyone searching the internet for a Coronavirus map could unwittingly navigate to this malicious website. Learn more.
  • Governor restricts senior living facility visitation. Gov. Ron DeSantis placed limits Wednesday on who can visit Florida’s nursing homes and other assisted living facilities, bidding to protect the state’s sizeable and vulnerable elderly population from the new coronavirus. The governor’s order prohibits anyone who recently arrived from a foreign country from visiting nursing and assisted care facilities. More here.
  • COVID-19 price gouging hotline started. Following Executive Order 20-52, Attorney General Ashley Moody today activated Florida’s Price Gouging Hotline for all consumers in the state. The opening of the hotline comes as Governor Ron DeSantis declares a state of emergency in response to positive test results of 20 coronavirus-infected patients in Florida. The Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline can only be activated following a state of emergency declaration issued by the Governor and covers essential commodities outlined in Florida Statute, Section 501.160.
    • For a list of the commodities covered under the state’s price gouging laws during the COVID-19 state of emergency, click here.
    • Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period. For more information on price gouging, please click here.
    • Price gouging can be reported by calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com. For tips on reporting price gouging, click here
  • Honor Flight Tallahassee postponed. With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently issued advisory that adults over the age of 60 are particularly at risk of infection and should avoid all nonessential air travel, the Honor Flight Tallahassee Board of Directors has made the decision to postpone the April 18, 2020 flight. Guardian training scheduled for April 4, 2020 and April 11, 2020 has also been postponed. At this time, a rescheduled flight date has not been determined.
  • Florida Department of Corrections suspends visitation. Following the State of Emergency issued in response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Florida, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) has suspended visitation at all correctional institutions statewide. FDC has no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 at this time. More here.
  • Added CDC environmental cleaning disinfection recommendations. Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. See more below.

 

Stay Informed on COVID-19

In coordination with the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Leon County, the County recommends the following sources to assist with community mitigation and preparedness. While health experts are working around the clock to learn more about COVID-19, you can also stay informed as new information becomes available.

Also, FDOH has activated a 24/7 COVID-19 call center at (866) 779-6121. Leon County residents can also call the County Health Department at (850) 404-6300, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also, the best resource for Florida-specific COVID-19 information remains the following FDOH website: www.FLHealth.gov/COVID-19 .

 

Office and School Closures

  • Florida State University will conduct all classes online the two weeks following spring break (March 23-April 6). More here.
  • Florida A&M University will conduct all classes online the two weeks following spring break (March 23-April 6). More here.
  • Tallahassee Community College will conduct all classes online the two weeks following spring break (March 23-April 6). More here.

 

International Travel Advisory

The Florida Department of Health is advising all individuals who have traveled internationally to follow the new CDC guidelines, summarized below:

  • Level 3: Mandatory 14-day self-isolation and practice social distancing upon return to the United States. Social distancing includes avoiding going out in public and close personal interactions. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your county health department or health care provider.
  • Level 2 and Cruises: Monitor your health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning to the United States. If you become symptomatic, immediately self-isolate and contact your county health department or health care provider.
  • For more information regarding current CDC travel advisories related to COVID-19, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

 

Households

 

Businesses

  • Center for Disease Control – Interim Business and Workplace Guidance – This resource is from King County, Washington and is based on CDC guidance to employers. The guide walks business leaders through all the steps to plan, prepare, and if needed, implement action plans.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Control and PreventionOSHA provides general guidance for all U.S. workers and employers including those unlikely to have occupational exposures to COVID-19 and those with potential occupational exposures to COVID-19. The general guidance provides information about environmental decontamination and worker training and includes additional resources for specific groups and their employers.
  • World Health Organization: Workplace Readiness – WHO experts produced a guide of simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The guide provides simple precautions to implement now and planning measures to consider in case COVID-19 arrives in the community.  Topics include preventative measures, travel considerations, and contingency planning.
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations for Community Facilities - Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in community settings.Transmission of coronavirus in general occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through fomites. Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.

 

Schools

  • Leon County Schools: COVID-19 – Local resource from Leon County Schools that references important information and provides parents and students with important updates.
  • Guidance for Administrations of Childcare and K-12 SchoolsA CDC guide for administrators at both the school and district level to plan, prepare, and respond to COVID-19. This resource provides information for schools which do not have COVID-19 identified in their community and for schools with identified cases of COVID-19 in their communities.

 

Healthcare Providers

 

Travel Restrictions and Guidance

  • CDC Information for Travel – Includes information about COVID-19 for travelers and travel-related industries and provides a risk assessment level per country. 
  • Travel Frequently Asked Questions and Answers – The CDC offers an in-depth frequently asked question page discussing airline and cruise travel, business travel, and guidance upon returning from travel.
  • Department of State Travel Advisories – This online Department of State resource includes official travel advisories, information about screening procedures, and a list of embassy websites that provides the updated COVID-19 information on each country.

 

Download the Leon County Citizens Connect Mobile Application – Relaunched in 2017, the Leon County Citizens Connect app puts timely emergency notifications at your fingertips through push notifications on your smartphone or other device. Be the first to know of any emergency management messaging or service changes by downloading the app on the Apple Store or the Google Play Store.

 

Take Action to Stay Prepared

Now is the time to be ready and reflect on your personal preparedness and plans. At this time, experts do not recommend social distancing or isolating yourself unless you are sick or suspect transmission. To remain well, practice good hygiene measures like washing your hands and using hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of 60 percent or greater. Also, it is not too late in the season to receive a flu vaccine, as recommended by the CDC. Getting sick back-to-back (from flu and another respiratory illness such as COVID-19) can be severely challenging. Mitigate your risk now.

According to the CDC, the most effective ways to prevent transmission of not only COVID-19 but any respiratory illness is to avoid being exposed by washing your hands and cleaning regularly used surfaces (more info can be found here).

For local businesses, the CDC also recommends the following guidance to prevent workplace exposures to acute respiratory illnesses in non-healthcare settings. These guidelines discuss sick leave, doctor’s notes, telecommuting and other considerations.

Also, if you are a business owner, please consider posting proper handwashing posters and signs in your bathroom locations to encourage good hygiene.

 

Leon County’s Emergency Management Role

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Florida Department of Health is the lead agency and County Emergency Management serves in support of the local health experts.

Like with H1N1 swine flu (2009), Ebola (2014), and the Zika virus (2016), County Emergency Management serves as the coordinating and command liaison between our local Florida Department of Health and the many local and state agencies who help prepare and respond, such as law enforcement, schools, universities, tourism, and more. Like with previous communicable diseases, the Florida Department of Health is the lead agency at both the state and local levels, and health officials will be providing guidance and public information messaging at every stage.

Beginning on Jan. 21, County Emergency Management staff began close coordination with the Florida Department of Health and other healthcare experts. Building on that coordinating role, Emergency Management now:

  • Convenes regular coordinating calls with K-12 school, university, healthcare, and emergency response representatives to ensure continuity of operations and information exchange;
  • Stands ready to convene more responding agencies at the Emergency Operations Center to assist health experts in coordinating any public health emergency response, similar to the efforts before and after a natural disaster;
  • Provides expert operational guidance across 18 different emergency support functions in support of the Florida Department of Health in Leon County’s operations and response;
  • Receives regular statewide and local briefings on the developing situation;
  • Coordinates joint information and messaging to ensure accurate, vetted, and unified messaging on COVID-19 and disease transmission.

 

Continue to follow www.LeonCountyFL.gov/eip for any local updates or changes to services.

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