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Commissioners get local virus update: Still no positive tests, first responders seek more protective gear

At Tuesday’s Lawrence County Commissioner meeting, they were updated by the county health department in regards to COVID-19 testing and updates about how the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency is handling the situation.

Georgia Dillon, the Lawrence County Health Department’s health commissioner, gave a report to the county commissioners about what they are doing regarding essential businesses after the state ordered all non-essential businesses closed.

She said the environmental director and the food services operator are out, trying to get the floor plans of the businesses that are open, especially the larger businesses, to make sure guidelines are being followed and “they can remain open and everyone be safe.”

She said the health department has investigated 52 cases related to the coronavirus, which includes people who have traveled.

“26 are negative and 26 are pending. We still do not have any cases of that we know of,” Dillon said. “We will continue to test, monitor and work with our partners. Medical providers including nurses are calling these people every day and making sure they are home and that their temperature is okay. They are doing a great job.”

She said the department got in supplies on Tuesday night and they are sharing them with first responders. She said she is resubmitting a request for local nursing homes, but because of demand for personal protective equipment it could be a while before that request is fulfilled.

Mike Boster, the Lawrence County EMA director, said his agency is remaining in virtual contact with anyone who has responsibilities during the coronavirus emergency.

“This type of emergency is a continual assessment type of emergency, so we are watching what is going on in our community and trying to anticipate the needs and bring resources together so we can meet those needs,” he said.

Boster stressed to the public that if there are needs, they should contact the agency, specifically through the commissioners’ website, lawrencecounty.org.

He pointed out that Lawrence County is a big county with over 62,000 people and 450 square miles.

“We don’t want to miss opportunities to help folks,” Boster said. “Please keep us aware of developing trends and problems that we need to address in the county.”

He also pointed out the lack of personal protective equipment is a worldwide, nationwide, statewide problem that has “created a crisis of such depth” because the everyone expected to be able to get supplies again in a timely manner.

He said it is very challenging to replace the things that are frequently used and then disposed of and they are looking to replenish personal protective equipment.

“We would even reach out to citizens, if you are aware of resources that we can utilize to give to first line responders, N95 masks, gowns, gloves, things like that,” to let the EMA know, “so we can take care of you as a county,” Boster said.

“I want the citizens of Lawrence County to be confident in knowing that we are unified as your leadership in this county,” said Commissioner DeAnna Holliday. “We have a very strong team of caring people. Lawrence County citizens that care about the county and they are trying to prepare us for what is to come and that we are meeting your needs.”

She said the county website is being updated frequently, including sometimes on a daily basis.

Commissioner Colton Copley said he was proud of Lawrence Countians.

“This is a tough time for all of us,” he said. But as a first responder, he was happy that people were taking steps to prevent exposure and making everyone safer.

He said some people had asked how much they should be getting at grocery stores when they are stocking up and his suggestion was to get twice as much as they used to.

“That way you are going to the store half the amount of time and you are still leaving things for other people,” he said, adding that if people aren’t finding items at one store, then they are going to go to another store and increase risk of exposure.

Copley said that’s what his family is doing and if you see his wife at the store and it looks like she is hoarding, she isn’t. “That’s just our family of seven trying to get by for the week.”

Commissioner Freddie Hayes commended all those who have to be out working, such as in the drive-thrus.

“I want to commend them for getting out and helping people get the hot meals they need,” he said.

The commissioners also addressed the continuing false rumor that the bridges between the states would be closed.

Holliday said she understood the fear, but that it was indeed false and they had put out many social media posts that it was false.

“Please do not spread the rumor that they are closing, they are not closing,” she said. “If you are hearing this in public, please know from your leadership in the county, we, the county commissioners are telling you that your bridges are not closing at this time.”

She said that on the commissioners’ website, they are building a “fact or fiction” section to address rumors and misleading comments.

“The last thing we need is any more panic induced or misunderstandings in that situation,” she said.

The Lawrence County Commissioner meetings are no longer open to the public because of coronavirus concerns. They are being shown in real time and for later viewing on their Facebook page.