“When, not if” is the way that the Coffee County Emergency Management Director James Brown put it to those attending recent Enterprise City Council and Coffee County Commission meetings.
The EMA Director outlined the local impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus that has headlined news for the past month for those attending the meetings—all seated the national health department mandated six-feet apart.
“There are no cases of COVID-19 in Coffee County at this time,” Brown said at the March 17 city council meeting and March 23 county commission meeting. “There are 157 positive cases in Alabama, mostly in north Alabama.”
Brown said that 90 percent of the tests are coming back negative. “You are going to hear a lot of rumors. Think about the sources,” he cautioned.
Brown said if a person is experiencing any of the symptoms—to include a 100.4 degree fever, tightness in the chest, trouble breathing—to call the medical care provider first.
“Don’t just show up,” he said. “Call your doctor’s office first.
“If you can’t get a hold of your doctor, call the Alabama Department of Public Health COVID-19 hotline that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Brown said. “They will tell you how to get a test. The number is 1-888-264-2256.”
Brown said that the supply of Personal Protective Equipment is improving. “The hospital received a big pallet of goods on Friday,” he said. “We did get another load of tests in Friday so we should have enough tests for people who need to be tested. As far as I know the tests are still being limited to those who are showing those symptoms.”
Brown note that the lead agency in this situation is the Alabama Department of Public Health and he had high praise for the ADPH. “I want to say publically that the ADPH has done an outstanding job during extraordinary circumstances,” he said.
Obtaining a quarantine shelter for first responders is being finalized, Brown said. “I don’t want anybody to panic. The only reason for this is if one of our first responders gets exposed while out on the job and we think they were exposed to somebody while on the job, we don’t want to send them home to infect their families.
“We’re looking at a place they can go to until we can get a positive or negative test result on the person they were helping,” he added. “Enterprise First United Methodist has stepped up and offered their Family Life Center for this. Again, we don’t want to panic anybody but we always prepare for the worst should we need it.”
Brown said the state attorney general has issued some legal guidance on citizens who are not abiding by the sanctions imposed as preventive measures regarding operating procedures. “Each day is another violation so they can receive another fine. This is serious.”
Brown said that the county has promoted the increased hygiene, instituted the social distancing, recommended travel restriction, limited mass gatherings, closed schools, modified the procedures for jails and court and modified the 911 dispatch. “Now every time we get a call, questions are asked so we know before we get there whether we need to doff or don any equipment,” he said. “We coordinated with religious organizations to limit or modify gatherings, sent recommended procedures to businesses.”
The Citizen Emergency Response Team members have been placed on standby status. “We’re looking at having some testing stations open and we’re going to need some help with traffic flow.
“We think in a couple of days we’re going to have 20 collection sites throughout the state for testing,” Brown said. “Of the 20 collection sites, Houston and Pike counties in the Wiregrass will have one and there is talk of opening a third.
“We’re just waiting for it to happen here, unfortunately,” Brown said. “I think it’s a matter of ‘when, rather than ‘if.’
“What we’re trying to do is prevent a big spike in cases,” he added. “That way we can still treat everybody that we need to.”