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Posted on: March 19, 2020

EMA Director Brown provides COVID-19 update to Enterprise City Council BY KEN ROGERS

EMA Director Brown provides COVID-19 update to Enterprise City Council - News - dothaneagle.com

The Enterprise Ledger

BY KEN ROGERS krogers@dothaneagle.com

Mar 18, 2020


Coffee County EMA Director James Brown was happy to report

good news that no cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have been

confirmed in Coffee County. He also had to deliver the bad news in an update to the Enterprise

City Council.

“We’re just waiting for it to happen here, unfortunately,” Brown

said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “I think it’s a matter if ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’”

When that happens, Brown detailed some of the measures that

likely will be taken here. He noted the lead agency on this is the

Alabama Department of Public Health. Nationally, the Department

of Health and Human Services (HHS) is over the crisis.

“Working together with HHS, ADPH will direct what happens in

the state as far as restricting anybody from travel, from

quarantining people, things like that,” Brown said.

“When we get into emergency powers — that the President just

gave — that gives us a little more freedom in what happens and

what we can do. If we get to the point where we have a case in

Coffee County or in Enterprise, we would probably recommend

that we also declare a local state of emergency.

“That would allow us to close public buildings. We would not,

however, have the ability to close down businesses. We would not

have the ability to restrict gatherings of whatever number. Those

are all left to the Alabama Department of Public Health and Dr.

(Scott) Harris, who is the director of that. Dr. Harris would look at

our area and decide what things he needed to restrict in order to

keep people from passing on this virus.”

Brown explained the phrase “flattening the curve” and its goal.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent a big spike in cases and that

way we don’t want to be overpowered from the medical system so

we can still treat everybody that we need to,” the EMA director

said. “If we had all the cases at one time, we would be

overwhelmed. If you take the typical 1 percent rate of mortality

and about a 2 percent rate of being hospitalized, and you just

figure out if we had 40 percent of our population affected it would

overwhelm our system.

“What we’re trying to do by using social distancing, by using

hygiene, by using all these things that you’ve been hearing about

on the news, we’re trying to ‘flatten out’ that spike so we get

infected over a longer period of time and everybody isn’t infected

all at once. That’s why we closed the schools, that’s why we’re

doing things like this.”

Brown outlined some of the more aggressive measures that have

already been implemented in the northern part of Alabama, where

most of that state’s positive cases have been confirmed.

“Those restrictions are no gatherings of 25 persons or more unless

they can maintain a six-foot distance from each other. They have

closed all the senior centers. They’re still allowing curbside

delivery and pickup of food for that,” Brown began. “They’ve

closed all private schools, all preschools with more than 12

children. They’ve closed any visitors and non-essential health

personnel to all the nursing homes.

“They’ve closed all the restaurants, bars, breweries, etc., except

for curbside takeout — but that’s all. So that’s some of the powers

that are given to the health officer and he’s able to make these

decisions.

“If we have a case down here or get more than one case we would

expect these same type of restrictions to come on us. Again, that

would be at the total discretion of the health department. The part

that we would be responsible for would be closing the public

buildings.”

Senior citizens have been most vulnerable to the virus. Tougher

visitation policies at hospitals and nursing homes have been

implemented.

Brown also said out-of-state travel should be cut as much as

possible.

Even religious services have been affected. Again, the six-feet

distance rule should be observed as much as possible.

Brown said one concern he has now is the limit on personal

protective equipment (PPE).

“That’s primarily for our health care workers and for our EMS

personnel and some of our firefighters go to those areas,” he said.

“We’re trying to find as many masks as we can. HHS has ordered

500 million of them, so hopefully we’ll start getting some of those

soon. Right now we are pretty low.

“We have requested the activation of what we call the Strategic

National Stockpile. That’s a federal government thing that keeps a

stockpile of medical equipment. They are going to move some of

that into here so that we can fill up our supplies where areas are

low. There is going to be, however, a priority with that. The first

one is acute area in hospitals. The second one is nursing homes.

The third one is ADPH because they are getting ready to do

collections. So we will be starting tests pretty soon. The final one

is our EMA personnel.”

Brown said EMA is looking into steps that would make having to

go into some public buildings not necessary.

“We’re looking at allowing expired carry permits, drivers licenses

and tags so people don’t have to go in and get them renewed at the

DMV,” he said. “We’re going to see what we can do to do more of

it by mail and waive some of the fees that come with that.”

What’s next? Brown said EMA has worked with the Alabama

Hospital Association.

“We think by next week for sure we’re going to have 20 collection

sites around the state for testing,” he said. “Testing is one of the

most important things that we can do. Before, it was limited

because we didn’t have many tests. We still have to report

anything that comes in as a positive result, but we don’t have to

jump through as many hoops in order to get testing done.

“We’re hoping soon we’ll be able to test more individuals. How

that will be done should be coming out soon.”

Brown said of the 20 collection sites, two will be in the Wiregrass

first — in Houston County and Pike County.

“They’re talking about opening a third. It’ll probably be in Coffee

County, but I can’t guarantee that,” Brown said. “They’re looking

at doing some drive-through testing so you can pull up in your car,

you don’t have to get out and they can test you.”

He added that two private companies in the county are performing

tests, but didn’t name them.

To see the full story as published, click below:

https://www.dothaneagle.com/enterprise_ledger/news/ema-director-bro…o-enterprise-city/article_8d2db0a8-daf8-52fa-8320-7fdd9a0414d7.html

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