Thursday, September 24, 2020
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Ocala

Health officials urge masks and protective measures as COVID-19 cases increase

Mark Lander

As the tri-county area continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases – the number stood at 1,152 on Wednesday – health department officials are warning residents to take precautions and remember that the virus is still very active.

“People understandably want to resume normal activities, whether that’s going to the beach, gathering with family and friends, or traveling,” said Florida Department of Health in Marion County Administrator Mark Lander. “But you still need to take precautions to protect yourself and others from getting sick. Stay 6 feet apart from others, wear a cloth face covering when you are out and it’s difficult to keep distant from others, and stay home and isolated from others if you are sick.”

Lander said cloth face coverings should be snug, worn over the mouth and nose and laundered after each use. He also pointed out that Florida Phase Two guidelines recommend that residents avoid gatherings of 50 or more people. And those over age 65 or with underlying medical conditions are strongly encouraged to avoid crowds and take measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Additional ways to protect yourself and others include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds). If unable to wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that people frequently touch (doorknobs, counters, keypads, etc.) at least daily.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow or use a tissue.
  • Tell your employer (and stay home from work) if you become sick or if someone at home has COVID-19.

Businesses are encouraged to identify a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for all COVID-19 issues. This person can determine how to operate if absenteeism increases due to employees becoming ill or needing to take care of sick family members or children. Having flexible sick leave and supportive policies in place is encouraged. Businesses may also want to consider ways that they can increase ventilation, use booking and scheduling to stagger customer flow, and limit handling of cash.

If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or if you are experiencing symptoms of the virus (fever, cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing), the health department recommends that you get tested for the virus.

The department offers free COVID-19 testing. Call (352) 644-2590 to schedule an appointment at the health department. You do not need to be experiencing symptoms to be tested. Testing also is available at other local medical providers. Call before visiting a facility if you would like to be tested for COVID-19.

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