Myers: Public safety agencies working well on COVID-19

By ED HOWELL
Posted 3/30/20

Walker County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Regina Myers said public safety and other local officials have worked well together in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, but noted is hard to get personal protection equipment and urged citizens to do social distancing.

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Myers: Public safety agencies working well on COVID-19

Posted

Walker County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Regina Myers said public safety and other local officials have worked well together in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, but noted is hard to get personal protection equipment and urged citizens to do social distancing.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Walker County reached 31 by Monday afternoon, the seventh highest total in 67 counties, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. The number of cases statewide reached 907 Monday, with six statewide deaths and more than 6,500 tested. No deaths have been reported in Walker County.

Myers said Monday, "We've been busy. We've been extremely busy. We're helping with information for the VOAID volunteers who are out feeding in the public, and we're helping them with questions they have on check-ins and quick checks on volunteers, making sure they've not been exposed. We're doing temperature checks and working with first responding agencies on questions they may have.

"We're working with the Coroner's Office on questions he may have in case, the Good Lord forbid, we have any fatality here due to that. So a whole lot of agencies are turning to me right now for direction, because so much of this is new to us, too. We're having to learn a lot as we go as well."

Myers said there has been "good communication" between her office and the responding agencies. She said it may take a while to get a question answered, but she is doing the best she can.

"But so far, we're all working together. It's going pretty well," she said.

As for first responder agencies, she said law enforcement agencies are having to make wellness checks of their personnel on shift changes.

"They've put in kind of like an isolation area to be on the safe side for the jail because they have to be super proactive and making sure we don't see someone sick in the jail," she said.

Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith posted on his office's Facebook page Sunday that that in compliance with recommendations from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, his office had deployed two Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) tents as an area to provide separate housing for non-violent, healthy inmates. It also provides beds inside the Walker County Jail for inmates being housed for potential needs concerning the coronavirus.

"All inmates have been screened for temperature abnormalities and fevers, and all inmates and staff will continue to be screened. All visitation is still suspended," Smith posted.

Myers said law enforcement is also having to carry out state directives from Gov. Kay Ivey, making sure some businesses not considered essential are closed.

"There is a whole lot of that they are having to do that is not their every day tasks," she said. "There is a lot we are having to do that we may not do every single day that we kind of touch base on," which also ignites more follow-up questions.

"We want to make sure we are doing what we're supposed to be doing," Myers said. "And we are asking a lot of questions for guidance from Public Health to make sure of what we're doing."

She said her office worked with Walker Baptist Medical Center in setting up tents outside the back of the facility, apparently to do triage to check for symptoms before people go into the Jasper hospital.

Asked about the supply personal protective equipment for medical use and other equipment in Walker County, Myers said her office has been making requests to the state for assistance to more of such things as medical gowns. In general, at the moment, she was felt the county was alright, but she said in some locations officials may have more need of one thing than another.

"It's just so hard to get right now, because the everybody in the state is going after the same stuff. I wish I could say we are in great standing with that, but PPE is in short supply all over the state," she said. "We're doing the best we can to get it when we can and get it to those - the priority right is hospital, nursing homes and EMS."

Myers indicated she was exhausted from COVID-19 and regular duties, and has not had much sleep, as her office still has to respond to hazardous spills, weather and regular duties in addition to the COVID-19 situation. She was up one night recently for a tornado watch over the weekend.

Asked what she would suggest to the public at this point, Myers said, "Just please, please, practice your social distancing. Just go out if it is an essential you have to go out to get your groceries and your pharmaceutical needs, your medications. Go out if you have to. If you don't, stay home. Let's all together get past this. I know it is crazy right now, but we want it to go back to normal.

"I think for the most part, most of the citizens have been great with it. Some hard decisions are having to be made, and unfortunately we are seeing some businesses that are having to close right now. It is a horrible thing to go through, but with everyone practicing their hand washing and their social distancing, and self isolation at home, we'll get through it sooner rather than later."