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{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”&lt;p&gt;In the first of a new series of updates from Volusia County, AdventHealth DeLand Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joe Smith announced his hospital corporation had tested some 27,000 people within the county for coronavirus since March 1.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;The number does not include tests performed by Halifax Health, Family Health Source and other health care providers.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Smith said AdventHealth has antiviral drugs available, such as Remdesivir, along with convalescent plasma. Convalescent plasma refers to the blood component with coronavirus antibodies taken from patients formerly infected with the virus.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;The county&amp;rsquo;s information officer talked about the new briefings format at the April 27 gathering.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&amp;ldquo;This is the next step,&amp;rdquo; Kevin Captain said. Captain is the county&amp;rsquo;s interim community-information director.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;The briefings are set to take place four times per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. They are viewable live on the county&amp;rsquo;s Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/VolusiaCountyCommunityInformation. Information will also be released on Tuesdays in conjunction with the County Council&amp;rsquo;s meetings.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;The new information campaign will last until the coronavirus emergency subsides.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;As the county works to reopen local government offices and businesses consistent with the guidelines set by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, County Chair Ed Kelley reminded everyone within his voice to continue frequent hand-washing as a way to prevent the spread of the disease.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;Also at the briefing, Sheriff Mike Chitwood noted food drives are planned to restock pantries of churches and private charities. Demand for food aid has skyrocketed, as more and more families try to cope with unemployment and children not attending school.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;&amp;ldquo;What you bring here stays here,&amp;rdquo; Chitwood said, calling for donations of food or money to help households in need.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;News from the governor&amp;rsquo;s office regarding the April 30 expiration of Florida&amp;rsquo;s Safer At Home order will be published on The Beacon&amp;rsquo;s website at www.beacononlinenews.com.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p style=&quot;text-align: right;&quot;&gt;&lt;em&gt;&amp;mdash; Al Everson&lt;/em&gt;&lt;/p&gt;” id=”108789b4-0417-4027-a325-1b88afe63a09″ style-type=”info” title=”More information” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

Thanks to the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, Volusia County is getting a big cache of cash to meet the demands of the coronavirus emergency.

The county government will receive $96.5 million to cover its extra costs of dealing with the pandemic and its ripple effects.

“That money has strings attached to it,” County Chief Financial Officer Ryan Ossowski said, noting the county must comply with regulations set by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Volusia County is one of 12 Florida counties that qualified for the special appropriation because its population exceeds 500,000, as provided in the CARES Act. CARES is an acronym for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security.

“Unlike FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], we receive these funds upfront,” Ossowski added.

The CARES Act money is to be used for such outlays as overtime pay for county personnel engaged in work related to the emergency; screening and testing people, including county workers, for the deadly disease; disinfecting county buildings and facilities; arranging for county employees to “telework” from home; and modifying offices and areas to separate and shield county employees who deal directly with the public, such as setting up plexiglass barriers similar to those at supermarket checkout counters.

The expenses must be incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30, Ossowski said.

In addition, the county may provide food aid and housing assistance — including rent payments — and grants to businesses making new health and safety improvements as they reopen.

The CARES funds, however, may not be used for “revenue replacement” in the county’s annual budget. Shortfalls in the collections of sales taxes, property taxes and gasoline taxes, for examples, may not be offset by the federal stimulus payments.

As the county government and private businesses gradually reopen and recover from the pandemic-related shutdown, County Manager George Recktenwald advised the County Council to put some of its CARES dollars in reserve.

“I would recommend we hold some back to see how the needs develop,” he said. “We want to make sure we are going in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, county officials have christened the effort to help local governments and closed businesses reopen with new standards on social distancing and reduced capacities with the name Relaunch Volusia.

“As the number of new coronavirus cases in Florida and locally continues to decline, Volusia County is readying a plan to reopen county services and facilities that were scaled back to mitigate the spread of the virus,” county spokesman Gary Davidson said.

Davidson said the full plan for reopening the county is being finalized and is expected to be a primary topic of conversation at next week’s County Council meeting.

Some steps have already been taken, like a very gradual reopening of the county’s beaches.

“Over the past weekend, the county opened up parking spaces on county rights-of-way near the beach and also opened three beach vehicle ramps for use by handicapped persons,” Davidson said. “All other beach ramps remain closed at this time to vehicles to prevent large gatherings on the beach.”

Some 795 vehicles used the three ramps over the weekend. The next step, according to the county, is to prepare the beach for opening with a larger but still limited volume of vehicles, separated 25 feet from each other.

“To prepare for re-entry of vehicles onto the beach, utility posts will be placed in the sand between the existing conservation poles to mark the 25-foot separation for parking,” Davidson said.


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