If you have a fever, stay home!
March 19, 2020
POMEROY-At the meeting of the Garfield County Commissioners (BOCC) on March 9, 2020, Martha Lanman, Health District Administrator, announced that there have been no suspected cases of the coronavirus in Garfield County to date. Also, there are no cases that have tested positive in Spokane, Whitman or Asotin Counties. Walla Walla County tested eight potential cases, which all tested negative. There is the potential exposure from others travelling to or through the county. There has been no official statement from the CDC yet about how long the virus survives on various surfaces, advised that it is air born through cough or sneeze to a distance of six feet.
Lanman stated that the coronavirus crisis is a long-term issue, and precautions need to be taken and sustained for the long-term. The CDC has added pregnant women who need to be monitored closely. She reported that the Department of Health (DOH) has issued a statement that says if you have a fever of any kind you should stay home until 72 hours after the fever has passed.
The Health District is monitoring supplies at the hospital and the GCFD EMS so that orders for new supplies can be made and received as soon as possible. COVID-19 tests done are now being conducted by three labs in Washington, which are capable of processing up to 1,000 tests per day. Persons seeking a test must contact their provider first by phone. If a test is needed, provider will determine the best way to proceed. Avoiding a visit to the hospital or clinic will reduce the risk of exposure.
The Health District will post signs from the DCD at the hospital, health district, and other location with the "three questions protocol": Do you have a cough? Do you have a fever? Are you short of breath? A "yes" answer to any of these questions is reason to be evaluated, and may prohibit a person from entering the posted location. Tina Meier, 911 Coordinator/Director, added that the 911 operators will ask the same questions and reporting immediately to responders for any "yes" answers.
Judge Tom Cox stated that many people coming to the courthouse for civil and criminal cases are from outside the community. Therefore, the court will rearrange dockets to minimize the number of people required at the courthouse, and handle as much business over the phone as feasible. Sheriff Hyer added that after discussions with the judge and county prosecutor, decisions were made to limit misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor warrants to domestic violence or driving under the influence (DUI) at this time. Felony warrants will be handled as usual. The jail is disinfected daily, and prisoner transfers from the Department of Corrections will meet the "three questions protocol" or be turned away.
Rachel Anderson, Director of Aging and Long-Term Care, reported that many senior citizens are scared and staying home. Only three seniors had signed up for lunch at the Senior Center for Monday, March 9, with others requesting meals to be delivered to their homes. The center usually serves 12 to 15 seniors each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Anderson is also the Director of the Garfield County Transportation Authority. She stated that they are taking precautions by disinfecting the County vehicles at the end of each day.
Garfield County Commissioner, Justin Dixon, asked the department heads about any planned travel coming up in the near future, to which a few responded that they did have plans in March or April to attend conferences and training sessions. Dixon was concerned that during this crisis the County should not be using public funds to travel to areas where exposure to the virus is greater, and possibly bringing that exposure back to the community. In an effort to protect our community, he said "we need to focus on what our priorities are." John Hirsch, Emergency Management Director, agreed and stated that "anything not mandatory should be avoided," and that "we should also consider where we are going."
Lanman said the DOH has not issued any travel recommendations, but the crisis is expected to be a long-term event and decisions will have to be made day-by-day. Grant Morgan, County Public Works Director, suggested that employees look at using teleconferences or other sources to obtain the same information.
County Prosecutor, Matt Newburg, advised that the County to create a safety policy of limiting non-essential travel without a declaring a mandate. He suggested that they use a guideline to ask employees to make use of their sick leave and stay home when sick.
The BOCC passed Resolution 2020-05, Declaration of Emergency in the Matter of COVID-19 virus, which will allow the County to make the necessary preparations to protect the citizens of Garfield County, and make it possible for the Health District to obtain additional assistance and staff if the need arises.