DAVID CLAY
General manager
Lower Keys Medical Center

Does your hospital have the ability to quarantine patients? Yes. We have seven individual isolation rooms for patients, and can also isolate a whole hospital unit, or pod, so to speak, in case we get hit hard with more than seven positive patients who need hospitalization.

How many patients can be quarantined at one time? Seven in isolation rooms, or an entire pod, or hospital unit, if we have more than seven patients.

What are your testing capabilities and how long do results take? We can do the nasal and oral swabs for testing, and we’ll then send those swabs to the Department of Health. Results typically take 24 to 48 hours.

How can employees protect themselves? If a patient visits their personal doctor and is showing symptoms and needs hospital care, we ask the patient or doctor to call ahead to our ER department. Our staff will don protective masks, gowns and eyewear and will meet the patients outside in our ambulance bay. We’ll bypass the waiting room and bring the patient in a back entrance and into an isolation room.


RICK RAMSAY
Monroe County Sheriff

Do you have the ability to test prisoners and personnel? Where will the tests be sent, and when will the results be available? Yes, our contracted medical partner is Wellpath. They only treat inmates. They currently partner with the Department of Health to have inmates tested here at the facility. Test results should be provided to us within 48 hours.

What is the protocol if a prisoner tests positive for COVID-19? The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Corrections has two cells that are negative air pressure rooms. These cells are used to contain airborne contaminants within the cell. This way the harmful airborne pathogens are not spread throughout the facility. These cells can house multiple inmates at one time.

How will you protect other prisoners and personnel from catching the virus? First and foremost, we will continue to educate both inmates and staff on washing hands, touching your face, etc. The inmates have an opportunity to see medical personnel at least twice a day and can put in for sick call for a more thorough evaluation. All new detainees will be screened to include questions about past travel to Iran, Italy, South Korea, China and so on. Temperatures and oxygen saturation levels of new detainees will also be measured. If new detainees have these symptoms proper measures will be taken immediately to identify if they do indeed have the COVID-19 virus. The jail has tripled the cleaning of well-traveled areas and housing areas. Personnel will be encouraged to stay home when sick and seek treatment from their own doctor if they display one or more symptoms.

Do you have protective supplies for prisoners and personnel — masks, gloves, etc.? Yes, we have all protective supplies or as we refer to them, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). We have all the PPEs needed at this time as we stay prepared for situations of this nature. Additional supplies have been ordered to be on the safe side.

Are you communicating with other law enforcement agencies about “best practices?” Yes, being a nationally accredited agency we have been in contact with the American Correctional Association. They have presented precautionary measures along with recommendations on what they believe are best practices for prevention. The Florida Sheriff’s Association has also been providing guidance and is open to dialogue when needed. We also work very closely with our South Florida partners, especially the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. We have shared ideas and information which we will continue to do.


RICHARD STRICKLAND
Director of Airports, Monroe County

How many commercial flights come into Monroe County every day? From where? Not counting general aviation or military, we have 74 inbound and outbound commercial flights from the Key West airport, 37 a day each way. Marathon doesn’t have any commercial service. Flights are coming in from Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Newark, La Guardia, Washington Regan National, Orlando, Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. This week, the numbers of passengers arriving started to go down, but planes leaving the Keys are filled with passengers. It’s an obvious trend.

Are any measures being implemented at our airports to screen incoming passengers and crew for coronavirus (temperature scans, extra sanitizing measures, etc.)? Some bigger airports have international arriving passengers, and international arriving passengers from hot spots create the need for government officials to intervene and help with screening for coronavirus. Once those passengers are cleared at those larger international airports and proceed to their connecting flights to destinations like Key West, which doesn’t have direct international flights, those passengers have already been deemed “clean.” So, we don’t have the same protocols in place as a large airport would have because we don’t have that influx of passengers coming from international cities.

What are you doing to protect your staff? Have masks, gloves been provided to them? We have gloves provided to those who want to use them, but staff don’t do a lot of touching of passengers. Plenty of hand sanitizer is available. We’ve implemented extra cleaning of restrooms and general areas that are touched a lot by the traveling public. We’ve also changed out all paper towel machines to have automatic sensors. We’re taking good health and hygiene measures to reduce areas people need to touch.

Is there anywhere at our airports where suspected cases can be isolated, tested and quarantined? In the very extreme, rare case a connecting passenger showed symptoms, my firefighting team (Aircraft Rescue Firefighting team) has the ability to get such a person to an ambulance for treatment. In their ability to respond, they have the PPE (personal protective equipment) to deal with the individual, make an assessment, and get them to the hospital. At the hospital where tests can be run, we can determine what the threat actually is. Until then, my firefighters can get people to ambulances and the hospital. This hypothetical is, again, very rare and unlikely, but if it did occur, my team is equipped to handle it.

Have you seen any change in the volume of flights recently? In January, we were up 25%, and in February we were up 24%. Those numbers are likely to change significantly in March.


MARK PORTER
Superintendent, Monroe County schools,

UPDATE:

The Monroe County School District will be closed to students until April 15. Staff will return next week, in part to help develop a plan for online instruction.

With students and teachers going on break, how is the school district planning and preparing in the event a teacher or student tests positive? A student or staff member who tests positive will be expected/required to self-isolate/quarantine for a period of 14 days.

What’s being done to protect teachers, staff and students? For the past several weeks we have implemented more frequent and vigorous surface cleaning protocols and have heavily emphasized personal hygiene practices that are effective in preventing the spread of any flu virus.

What’s the message to teachers, students and parents as they go on break? Relax and enjoy your spring break. We will continue to monitor the developments of COVID-19 and will keep everyone well informed.  Based on the CDC travel advisories it might be a good time for a “staycation” to enjoy all the Florida Keys has to offer.


GREG VELIZ
Key West city manager

UPDATE: Major U.S. cruise lines have voluntarily suspended operations for 30 days due to coronavirus The port is still open for marine traffic which includes recreational vessels.

Who has the authority to close a port? That authority lies with the federal government, which governs all ports. And as of now (March 12) they have chosen not to shut down. We do not have the authority to shut down our port.

How is the port of Key West related to the ports of Miami and Port Everglades? We have to understand that our port, while very, very important to us and to the cruise industry, there are many, much larger, ports out there, all governed by the same authority, the federal government. So if in fact they start closing ports, you have to imagine they’ll focus on the bigger ports, such as Port of Miami, Port Everglades. And essentially, if they restrict travel in those ports, that’ll shut us down anyway, so we’d just be a byproduct of a bigger shutdown.

Are cruise ships any more of a problem than, say, arriving airplanes? While there are studies of illnesses spreading within the confined space of a cruise ship, to single out cruise ships is somewhat unfair when we have airplanes filled with people landing constantly.

According to Monroe County Emergency Management on Friday, March 13: The Port of Key West is monitored by U.S. Coast Guard Station Key West. ALL cruise ships that enter Key West originate from a domestic port. The USCG has authority to deny entry to the port. The USCG and Custom and Border Patrol review every incoming cruise ship arrival. The cruise ship is required to report any hazardous issues to the CDC & Florida Department of Health.

— (as stated in a March 12 radio interview)

Join Our Blast – Keys News Right to Your INBOX