Okaloosa Department of Health director speaks at Crestview virtual meeting

Renee Bell
Crestview News Bulletin

CRESTVIEW — The city of Crestview held a virtual city briefing featuring vital information April 4 from its Facebook page.

The event, available at https://bit.ly/2ULGHhu, featured Dr. Karen Chapman of the Department of Health of Okaloosa County.

She presented information on the testing, how it’s affecting the county, and answered questions from city officials and the public.

Chapman said many people 65 and younger haven't lived in a world with polio outbreaks in the summer and whooping cough deaths in the fall and winter.

She explained why the coronavirus is described as novel.

"This means it’s a new pathogen for human beings. There's much we don't know about this virus as a result, and every day, every week that goes by we're learning more and more,“ Chapman said. "The only tool we have in our toolbox to fight this virus is social distancing."

She said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is putting guidance out that there needs to be a four-week, sustained decline in cases before thinking about letting up on social distancing.

“We should view this virus as being everywhere and act accordingly, and social distancing is key. It is critical to do that,” Chapman said. “Wash your hands, cover your coughs, don't touch your face, stay at home when you are sick. Those are really so critical now. And so it's really imperative to blunting this virus, to keep this social distancing up.

“I want to caution people. There have been some talk on TV that the death rate is lower than what it is right now when you take into account the asymptomatic individuals, those that have mild illness. ... Statistics can fool you. A 1 percent mortality rate means 33 million people get infected with it, that means 330,000 deaths. That's a lot of people," she added.

On March 30 in Okaloosa, there were 36 cases, only three of them visitors. Of the 33, 40 percent got infected in Okaloosa. As of Monday, there are 51 cases, some of which are still under investigation, according to Chapman.

Cases are concentrated in Destin, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach, five in Crestview, two in Mary Esther, and one each in Shalimar and Eglin Air Force Base.

Crestview Mayor JB Whitten asked whether testing is available in Okaloosa County, since there are no testing facilities in Okaloosa County. All samples are sent to Escambia County for testing.

She said there is plenty of local testing going on. Drive though testing is through federal teams or private healthcare organizations, as public health organizations don't have the manpower necessary to pull that off.

The DOH-Okaloosa is providing free testing Monday through Friday, and area organizations such as White-Wilson are coordinating testing the health department. There are also other hospitals and medical offices providing testing to those who have insurance.

She also answered the question of where to get the most up to date information. Those are DOH-Okaloosa’s healthyokaloosa.com website and FAQ page; the Florida Department of Health, www.floridahealth.gov; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov.

The Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County's COVID-19 Call Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days at week at 1-866-779-6121 or email COVID-19@flhealth.gov.