COVID -19 Update from the Front Line

By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate           

            As the pandemic of the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 continues, there are many serving on the front lines to battle this disease as well as provide non-biased and factual information to all.  One of those working hard in these aspects is Company 10 Fire Department Chief and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Director Kevin White.  Every Monday, his office is hosting a conference call of those working day in and day out to protect everyone, including medical professionals, the municipalities, Fire Departments, law enforcement officers, the Health Department, and many more.  This meeting ensures the same information is being provided to the public by all involved.  As far as the OEM, White said, “The main thing is to push out the proper information to everybody.”  This helps to control the rumors relating to the virus from circulating and false information being spread.

            The OEM and Tucker County Health Department are working very closely in handling this pandemic, and more specifically securing PPE (personal protective equipment) to all of the first responders.  “I don’t think we’re in bad shape,” said White in reference to the inventory of PPE, however he fears for not just Tucker County but all counties and states for the near future and their supplies.  The state is working diligently to secure more equipment for the counties, though White stated they have received all they can at this time from a federal level.

            In reference to masks, White explained the N95 provides the best protection, followed by an approved surgical mask, both of which are proving hard to get.  As far as the homemade, cloth masks that are becoming more popular, though they have a drastically lower efficiency rate, those in conjunction with proper distancing improves their effectiveness.  “Something is better than nothing,” suggested White.

            As far as the Fire Department is concerned, White stated, “We’ve obviously taken precautions.”  With this being the first pandemic of this nature in our lifetime, the Fire Departments across the county came together to develop a set of standard operating procedures.  Each member has been made aware of those procedures as well as installation of such placed on lockers.  Response Kits have been developed containing PPE’s, sanitizer, decontamination units, and hazmat disposal bags if need.  The Tucker County Fire Departments are continuing to stay in contact to ensure all members are aware of the protocol which will ensure fluidity in collaboration during joined efforts.  “It’s more important now than ever not just to protect ourselves, but to provide better services,” White said.  To conclude, White encourages all residents to ensure they are obtaining appropriate information from reliable sources, such as the Health Department, OEM, Homeland Security, or CDC, as well as to practice good hygiene, social distancing, staying home when possible, and helping others.

            Brett Ware, Director of 911 for Tucker County, also provided a statement relating to COVID-19.  “As we make our way through these trying times, our office is committed to protecting the public during this pandemic.”  Their office is taking protective measures to ensure the safety of the community as well as the first responders and employees of the center.  “One measure taken is the implementation of a COVID-19 screening process,” Ware explained.  “With the use of our state-of-the-art computerized dispatch system, our emergency telecommunicators screen all medical related emergencies for the signs and symptoms of a potential COVID-19 patient,” he continued.  “This screening process allows our center to interrogate and disseminate pertinent information to response units.”  This information provides the responders the opportunity to approach the patient appropriately while taking care of their own safety.  “While the understanding is that this process is not foolproof, it is a step forward in preventing the spread of disease,” said Ware.

            Typically, the 911 Center is open for public visitation that is no longer the case.  “Our goal is limiting the exposure of our staff to this very deadly disease,” Ware explained.  “While we are grateful of our community and those who serve it, these steps are necessary to protect those who answer your calls for help in times of crisis.”

            Procedures are also in place in the event a 911 employee becomes ill with the Coronavirus.  “We’ve tested and implemented an alternate location for our employees to work and serve from,” Ware explained.  “With the help of the Tucker County Office of Emergency Management’s Mobile Command Unit, we’re able to relocate our 911 operations throughout the county and maintain our services without any limitations.”  Testing is continuing on equipment and procedures which also may allow an employee to process incoming emergency calls from their home, which may be an option in the near future.  “Please rest assured, if you place a call to 911, that call will be answered and help will be rendered,” concluded Ware.

            Mary Smith, Director of the Tucker County Senior Center, also provided information relating to their continued services and precautions being taken.  Even though their facility is now closed to the public, the office staff is continuing to work, taking phone calls, and helping in any way possible.  “The Parsons site is providing home delivered meals and curbside pickup meals Monday through Friday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 12 p.m.,” Smith explained.  “Our Mt. Top site is providing home delivered meals Monday through Thursday.”

            Medical transportation is still being provided, though on a limited basis.  Many clients’ appointments have been rescheduled or conducted via phone, which assists in limiting medical facility visitations.  Smith stated that Dana Corcoran has been running errands for several seniors, including traveling to the grocery stores and pharmacies.  “We have stopped allowing our seniors to go into public with their homemakers hoping this helps keep them in and not exposed,” she continued. “We have limited our homemakers to shopping for them (the seniors) one time a week to help cut down on exposure.”

            Annual training is provided for the employees of the Tucker County Senior Center, as well as the appropriate precautions to take in the event a worker comes into contact with the virus.  “Our workers are doing a great job taking care of our elderly and disabled,” Smith said.  Any calls to the Senior Center are welcome at 304-478-2423, Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.

            As of April 4, the Tucker County Health Department provided an update relating to the pandemic and further recommendations from the CDC in reference to face covering.  The press release stated that studies are continuing on the Coronavirus and it has been discovered that a great percentage of individuals with the virus lack symptoms.  Even without symptoms, the virus can still be transmitted from the carrier to others.  The statement continued, saying, “In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”  It continued to say, “The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”

            James Snyder with the Tucker County Health Department said, “As of today, 25 Tucker County Residents have been tested for COVID-19, eight tests are pending, 14 have been negative, and three have been positive.”  There are some areas within West Virginia that have recently seen a large increase in positive cases.  “We all must be social distancing and be complying with the Governor’s ‘Stay at Home order’,” Snyder added.  In the case that travel is essential, it is recommended to follow these precautions:  wear a cloth face covering, do not shake hands or hug others, avoid crowds, maintain a six foot distance between you and others, avoid touching your face, and avoid exposure to those who are sick.  For more information and the most accurate, up to date statistics, visit www.TuckerHealthWV.com.

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