This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Putnam County Sheriff’s Office officials say service will continue uninterrupted despite 18 of their law enforcement and corrections officers now being quarantined. In releasing the news this morning Chief Deputy Co. Joe Wells said 16 deputies have tested positive for coronavirus and two are hospitalized. Wells noted correctional facilities across the country and Florida are experiencing an increase in coronavirus and says Putnam had planned for the possibility. Inmates in the county jail receive a thorough medical exam upon arrival and daily during their stay. One inmate was identified and quarantined, he said. Everyone entering the jail now must undergo a thorough medical screening, Wells said.
St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties saw increases in coronavirus cases over the weekend. Latest figures from Florida Department of Health show numbers have nearly doubled in a week in St. Johns County. As of Sunday, 837 cases were reported there with 273 new cases identified over the last three days. Flagler County is now at 293 as of the Sunday information release. Putnam County is at 318 cases plus two as yet unconfirmed cases.
St. Augustine city commissioners in a special meeting Friday said people need to be wearing masks and unanimously passed a resolution requiring people to wear face coverings inside businesses and other buildings open to the public. While some wanted to see masks required on crowded streets including St. George Street, the main tourist venue, commissioners didn’t go that far and did provide for some exemptions including when people are eating and drinking. A fine of $500 is in place for violators who are charged.
Despite a warning Friday from Palatka Police about setting off fireworks, the noise continued over the weekend. Fireworks were heard and seen all around Palatka and surrounding areas. They can now be purchased inside city limits although it’s illegal to shoot them off except Fourth of July and New Year’s. Police have the authority to issue a civil citation for violation of the city’s noise ordinance and that can mean a fine up to $500.
About 100 people held a vigil in Nocatee Sunday for David Berlin, a 67-year-old man found dead in a wooded area near his home. Berlin, who worked for Subway, went out for a walk around 2 p.m. Thursday in the Timberland Ridge area but didn’t return. His body was found Friday morning. His family has said he died of a medical issue.
A group of direct descendants of Confederate Civil War soldiers remembered by an obelisk in the Plaza de la Constitucion in St. Augustine is fighting back after a 3-2 vote by St. Augustine city commissioners to remove the memorial. They filed a lawsuit to stop the city from moving the monument saying it represents a “communal effort, public art and social history.” They want a temporary injunction so that a study can be done by the Historic Architectural Review Board into the feasibility of moving the monument without it being destroyed. Their suit comes only a couple of days after the University of Florida announced it would be digging up the cremated remains of Confederate Gen. W.W. Loring who is buried in the square next to the Plaza. Some question whether that may be the start of an effort to dig up soldiers’ remains in other locations.
Area firefighters were busy over the weekend in St. Johns, Putnam and Marion counties. A wildfire near Mile Marker 316 on Interstate 95 in St. Johns County Sunday is under investigation. Florida Forest Service said the 15-acre fire was under control Sunday evening but containment lines are being improved.
In Putnam County local units responded to a fully involved fire at an abandoned mobile home in Satsuma near Phoenix Street and Tennessee Avenue on Sunday afternoon. The fire was knocked down. In Marion County a wildfire on the Rodman Bombing Range of the Ocala National Forest brought out Florida Forest Service and U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters. Station 5 of Putnam’s Southwest Volunteer Fire Department was also called out. The brush fire was at more than 100 acres on Sunday evening.