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Dr. Karen Chapman: “View the virus as being everywhere”

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Dr. Karen Chapman, Director for the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County, this morning told Okaloosa County Commissioners that COVID-19 is spreading here, Okaloosa has only seven days of critical healthcare supplies, and our county could soon become one of the state’s hotspots.

SHALIMAR, Fla — Dr. Karen Chapman, Director for the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County, this morning told Okaloosa County Commissioners that COVID-19 is spreading here, Okaloosa has only seven days of critical healthcare supplies, and our county could soon become one of the state’s hotspots.

“These are very, very trying times for public health and the medical healthcare system right here in Okaloosa County,” said Chapman via video conference. “While we have only 36 cases, we are straining already with that and with more testing there will be more cases.”

She attended the meeting remotely because she said gathering for the meeting was not safe.

Chapman told commissioners that there is a shortage of critical supplies statewide. Here in Okaloosa, she said we have only a seven-day supply of critical personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and workers in nursing homes.

“We don’t know when our next shipment is coming, she said.

Chapman said she finds it striking that 40 percent of the state’s hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are people aged 20 to 54.

“This is not a cold. This is not influenza. We don’t see this level of hospitalization with this age group with something like influenza,” she said.

“Today, you are witnessing what a world looks like when you have an infectious disease for which there is no vaccine and there is no treatment,” said Chapman.

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“We don’t have many tools in the toolbox to fight this virus.”

Chapman strongly encouraged people aged 65+ and anyone with a condition compromising their health to only leave their homes to seek medical care, prescriptions and groceries.

She said it is “imperative to protecting life that we continue —and probably enhance—our social distancing efforts and encourage more action by our businesses and citizens to minimize social interaction.”

“At this time, you should view the virus as being everywhere,” Chapman warned county commissioners, adding that it is known that the virus is being spread by people who show no symptoms.

Of Okaloosa’s 33 confirmed cases of residents, Chapman said 48 percent of the cases were contracted here in Okaloosa County. Soon such will be the case for most cases in the county, she said.

“We have progressed to community spread throughout Florida, throughout the entire state.”

Chapman warned commissioners that testing remained inadequate in Florida and Okaloosa.

“We are still critically below in testing in this county and critically behind in our state,” she said.

Making matters worse, test results are slow in coming and there are no labs in Okaloosa County that have the equipment to perform testing on collected samples.

“At this point, there is no other way to put it: We are at war with this virus,” Chapman warned commissioners.

“New York City is a hotspot right now. Miami is a hotspot. But that does not mean that we won’t be one soon,” she warned.

“Hospitals in these places are overrun, resources are limited, and in New York City they are lining up refrigeration trucks to hold bodies of those deceased.”

See the video of Chapman’s report to commissioners here. She begins speaking at 43 minutes into the county’s videocast.

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