Editors note: In a one-on-one interview with Clay Today reporter Wesley LeBlanc, Clay County’s Florida Department of Health director Heather Huffman sorted through the facts and misinformation …
Editors note: In a one-on-one interview with Clay Today reporter Wesley LeBlanc, Clay County’s Florida Department of Health director Heather Huffman sorted through the facts and misinformation of COVID-19.
CLAY COUNTY – There’s a lot of information about COVID-19 out there, and thanks to more unofficial and social media sources, there’s also a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 out there, too.
Clay Today spoke to Clay County’s Florida Department of Health director, Heather Huffman, about COVID-19 to help determine what’s fact and what’s fiction. Her answers are based on science and facts shared by the state’s 67 health departments, along with other national and worldwide organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health.
Here are the facts:
Are masks effective? Are they
Huffman: “The CDC continues to recommend mask-wearing. There are different levels of masks and grade coverings, though. N95s are the hospital ones, and we want people to keep those for healthcare workers. The next level is a surgical mask that you would find a doctor wearing during surgery and then there are standard facial coverings. We recommend multiple layers with these – not just one piece of material, but two or three.
“Masks are a form of source control. That’s why surgeons wear them in surgical wings. The effectiveness of them depends on the layers, the material, et cetera. It’s a form of mitigation, but it’s not the be-all, end-all. That’s why we still recommend social distancing, regardless of vaccination status.
COVID-19 in schools
How does contact tracing in schools work?
Huffman: “I think we have a lot of parents misinformed about how we do contact tracing. One caveat right off the bat this year: at-home tests. Parents need to remember, if their child tests positive with a home test, we can’t do contact tracing and proper quarantine orders until they get a test done with us or in a lab or from a physician. That’s because I don’t have the authority to order contact tracing and quarantine protocol unless the test is from a lab or a physician. Orders after an at-home test won’t hold up legally. I can’t do anything in those instances.
“So if you do get a lab or physician test, you should then let us know. If you use an at-home test, you’ll be what we call a suspected test and we’ll ask you to come in for a confirmatory test, and then we can actually count you as a confirmed case.
“When an individual gets a test, we can’t do anything until we get a positive back. That’s why it’s very important for people to isolate themselves if they’re testing. It may take two days to get the result back. After that, we’ll interview the case, contact the school, determine where they were sitting and what classes they attended, et cetera. Right now, the quickest we can do is about five days after getting the positive test. We’re getting 200 cases a day and we just can’t do any faster with that number of cases.”
Huffman: “I don’t want people to become so desensitized to COVID-19. It’s everywhere. It can happen at a grocery store, at a soccer game, at school, in church. The way to mitigate that and prevent that, if they’re 12 or older, is to get vaccinated. You should also social distance and wear a mask.
“Don’t take your foot off the gas and please get vaccinated. I believe in vaccinations, otherwise, myself and my husband and my kids wouldn’t be vaccinated. The mortality rate for COVID-19 in Clay County is 2%. On top of that, 95% plus of the people hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The proof is right there, it’s in the numbers.”