Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 6, 2021
Nassau County Emergency Operations Director Greg Foster and Nassau County Public Health Director Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel appeared before the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) at the beginning of the FBCC’s January 5, 2021 Meeting to provide an update and answer questions relating to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Bottom line: Nassau County is experiencing a surge in cases, quantities of vaccine available are limited and unpredictable, and everyone is frustrated.
With respect to the scheduling of appointments for vaccinations via the EOC website, Foster reported that the first day appointments were available, the 100 tickets were claimed within 2 minutes; the second day’s allotment of 400 tickets were claimed in 60 seconds.
See earlier article on how to sign up for vaccination tickets.
Nassau County has received 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to date, with priority given according to the CDC guidelines to medical workers and first responders. Residents of nursing homes are being given the vaccine through another channel involving Walgreen’s and CVS.
The County will not be administering the Pfizer vaccine because there are no facilities for storing that vaccine at the required minus 70 degree temperature.
Dr. Seidel reported that the County is dependent on state distribution of the vaccine and has no way to predict how much vaccine will be sent to Nassau or when it will be sent. She expressed confidence that by the end of the summer all residents would be able to obtain the vaccinations, as the County anticipates receipt of a total of 90,000 doses.
Foster said that by the time text alerts have been sent to let people know when vaccination tickets are available, the crush of people trying to claim tickets has already begun. The release time for tickets has been 10:00 a.m. People have begun attempts to access the County website by hovering over the vaccination page at least 5 minutes earlier, making their chances of acquiring a ticket greater than waiting for the text alert. The website quickly becomes overloaded with traffic. An earlier article noted that the site crashed this morning
Foster explained that through the Nassau County Council on Aging, work is underway to utilize EMS personnel to provide vaccinations to those who are eligible but housebound. Nassau County has also requested services of a “strike team” of nurses to assist in administering vaccine, should the County’s supply increase beyond local ability to vaccinate in a timely manner.
Special events status
In response to questions from City Commissioners, Dr. Seidel reinforced the importance of following CDC guidelines with respect to social distancing, personal hygiene and wearing face masks. She advised the City to carefully consider the risks in granting special event permits at this time.
Later in the meeting the FBCC turned its attention to the status of upcoming special events. They agreed to allow the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade to proceedon January 18, as well as the Redfish Tournament at the end of the month. With respect to events proposed for February, they agreed to cancel the Chilli Cook Off and the indoor Mardi Gras event proposed for the Atlantic Rec Center Auditorium.
At their next meeting they will decide whether to grant a permit to the Fernandina Beach Main Street Sip and Shop event planned for February.
Extending face mask mandate
Commissioners also decided on a 3-1 vote to extend the City’s emergency order requiring masks or face coverings in public spaces until February 6, 2021. In opposing the resolution, Commissioner Bradley Bean emphasized that he supported the wearing of face masks, but in light of the fact that per the Governor a “requirement” could not be enforced, he wanted the word “require” changed to “recommend.” Commissioner Chip Ross disagreed, stating that the word “require” provided more support to business owners in advising their patrons that the wearing of face masks was not up to individual businesses, but had been mandated by local authorities.
The vote to extend the emergency order passed on a 3-1 vote with Bean dissenting. Commissioner David Sturges was not in attendance at the meeting.