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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, May 12, 2020 1 week ago

Relaunch Volusia: County presents reopening strategy plan

Volusia is still in phase one of three.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

With Volusia County currently in its first of three phases of its reopening strategy, when will the county begin to enter phase two?

As detailed in the Relaunch Volusia plan, that will occur when the number of new cases has declined for at least 14 days or ceased entirely; there is sufficient rapid diagnostic testing capacity; the health care system remains able to care for all patients and has enough personal protective equipment; and when there is sufficient public health capacity to conduct contact tracing for new cases and their close contacts.

Deputy County Manager Suzanne Konchan gave the County Council a brief walkthrough of the plan at its meeting on Tuesday, May 12. She said the Relaunch Volusia plan will be on the county website and will be adjusted as needed, whether it be a result of COVID-19 circumstances, council directives or decisions made by County Manager George Recktenwald.

Recktenwald said that with this plan in place, the county has the ability to go back and forth with the phases if needed. It provides a roadmap for the county to be able to mitigate spread while ensuring critical services remain in place.

“It’s very fluid," Recktenwald said. "[COVID-19 is] going to be with us for a while and how we handle these blooms or these outbreaks I think will determine our success going forward.”

In phase two, the document details that the county will start to transition its employees from working remotely to working from their assigned offices, though in-person meetings will still be discouraged. The county will also resume in phase two all of its hosted and organized public events that can be conducted with proper social distancing practices, and that they should be outdoor where possible. The reopening of playgrounds is also part of this next phase. 

Konchan said the county has been speaking three days a week with the city managers as they work to reopen administrative buildings.

“It was the general consensus of that group yesterday that June 1 would be a coordinated target for reopening the doors, so to speak," she said.

This should give enough time to install plexiglass sneeze guards, barriers and floor markings where necessary, Konchan said.

At the time the current Relaunch Volusia plan was completed, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated Florida could see 3,971 COVID-19 deaths by August 4. That number has since increased to 5,440 deaths. 

“So people need to understand that we are still in this, and until we have a vaccine, we’re going to have these bursts," County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler said.

The councilwoman said she is anxious to see if there will be an increase in local COVID-19 cases in the next 14 days due to the amount of tourists staying in Volusia hotels and the number of people heading to the beach. She also mentioned she frequented two restaurants recently — one was following safety and social distancing protocols, the other was not.

Recktenwald said the county is trying to work with businesses as much as possible. But, staff can't be everywhere.

“When you see a place that’s being safe and doing the right thing, I think they should be rewarded with our business, and if they are not, then I think people should look at a safe place to go eat," Recktenwald said.

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