Officials from four major county agencies presented information regarding the county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Cherokee County board of Commissioners.
As of noon Wednesday there were 31 coronavirus infections confirmed in Cherokee County, according to the state Department of Public Health.
During the meeting, the commissioners heard from Sheriff Frank Reynolds, Fire Chief Tim Prather, Chief Marshal Ron Hunton and Community Services Agency Director Bryan Reynolds.
“We’re going to get through this,” Hunton said. “We’re lucky to live in this county, we’re lucky to live in this state, and we’re lucky to live in this country. We have faced things much more serious than this, I believe, in our history.”
To help seniors who are not getting out to avoid exposure, Hunton said county law enforcement has volunteered to pick up medication for these individuals, as well as offering to help with the Meals on Wheels program offered through the senior center should it need additional drivers.
Reynolds said that, while the courthouse remains open, inmate hearings have begun to be held remotely, with a special space set aside within the jail for these proceedings. To limit potential spread of the virus within a more confined area, the sheriff’s office is restricting visitations at the jail, instead encouraging the use of the iWebVisit video visitation software.
Prather said COVID-19 has not been a major issue within the fire department, but steps had been taken to ensure the safety of the agency’s firefighters and EMTs. Although one crew was exposed and went into quarantine, Prather said they had since cleared and the fire department was currently at full force. When this crew was exposed, one of the agency’s volunteer stations in the Holbrook community was set up as a quarantine center for the firefighters and remains as such.
“If we have some employees who do not want to go home, we’ve got that station set up now that they’ll quarantine at,” Prather said.
Other safety measures the fire department has taken includes decontaminating stations every four to six hours, having firefighters wear civilian clothes into the station and changing into their uniforms (which they are requested to leave at the station) once there and suiting up with full protective gear when responding to calls where the caller is reporting flu-like symptoms, according to Prather.
Bryan Reynolds said the county senior center was closed, although the Meals on Wheels and Homemaker Care programs were being continued with protocols in place to protect volunteers with these programs. The Cherokee Area Transportation System will continue running, but with specific changes included meant to protect riders and drivers. This includes limiting demand response buses to medical appointments, while fixed route buses would be limited to 10 passengers at a time, with part-time drivers filling in to help ensure there are plenty of buses ready to go on the fixed routes.
“We have not made any changes to the fixed route, other than just limiting the number of passengers per bus,” Reynolds said. “We are disinfecting the buses more often and we’ve got signage on the buses, available in both English and Spanish, to notify riders about how they can protect themselves.”
In addition to hearing from these officials, some of the commissioners had questions regarding some of their talking points. Commissioner Corey Ragsdale asked Hunton how people could go about requesting assistance with getting medications to elderly residents. Commission Chair Harry Johnston brought up a similar point, floating the idea that the county could help those who may be self-quarantining and not have a support system, such as family members, able to bring them needed supplies, as well as possibly making this a place where people wanting to volunteer to help could do so.
“I’ve actually had some people volunteer, ‘How can I help?,’” Johnston said. “I’ve said, ‘This might be a place, let’s see. Let’s see how many people need this kind of help.’ We don’t want to overwhelm law enforcement with this if it got bigger. We might could draw in some volunteers as well.”
Hunton told Ragsdale they could send an email to him or to the sheriff’s office if they knew of someone needing help getting their medicines, while believing Johnston’s suggestion was a good idea.