In a conference call coordinated by the City of Nevada Wednesday morning, community health, business, educational, faith, government, and media partners joined together to share pertinent information in regards to the local response to the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019). “Our main focus of the call today is to establish a communication pipeline,” stated Interim City Manager Mark Mitchell. “To keep everyone up to date.”
Those participating in the conference call included Interim City Manager Mark Mitchell, Mayor George Knox, Presiding Commissioner Joe Hardin, Nevada City Council Member Carol Gallagher, Police Chief Casey Crain, Fire Chief Bill Thornton, City Clerk Johnna Williams and representatives from the following organizations: Vernon County Health Department, Nevada Regional Medical Center, Vernon County Ambulance District, Heartland Behavioral Health, Nevada/Vernon County Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, 3M, Compass, On My Own, Moss House, Nevada Housing Authority, Elmwood Estates, Nevada Public Library, Osage Prairie YMCA, United Way, West Central, Nevada Downtown Retailers, Cottey College, Nevada R-5 School District, LifeWalk, Pine Street Baptist Church (Red Cross), Vernon County Commission, Vernon County Sheriff's Department, City of Nevada, Southwest Community Services, KNEM/KNMO Radio, and the Nevada Daily Mail.
The conference call opened with a statement from Mayor George Knox and proceeded with each organization stating their concerns and what steps they are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The following is an overview of the conference call:
Mayor George Knox's statement
“As the mayor of Nevada, the safety and well-being of our citizens is always our number one concern and priority. With that in mind, I want to assure you that the city has taken proactive steps to ensure the welfare of our community. The city remains focused on the continuity of critical operations — police and fire departments, providing clean water and sewer services. It's our responsibility to work together and to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to keep our citizens safe.”
Vernon County Health Department
According to the Vernon County Health Department, locally there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have been two tests completed locally for the virus that have been sent out that are pending results. These were sent out via a private lab. Statewide, the number of those with the virus jumped significantly on Tuesday. “Likely, it will get here eventually,” stated a representative from the Health Department. “We went from seven positive yesterday morning (statewide), to 15 at the end of the day. The closest counties being affected are Henry and Cass counties.”
Nevada Regional Medical Center
“We have not seen any cases yet,” stated NRMC C.E.O Steve Branstetter. “We've got our emergency plan in place and we are restricting visitors. There are only two doors you can enter to get in the building.”
Presiding Vernon County Commissioner Joe Hardin's statement
“The county has implemented a temporary plan of action as far as county business on our website. We are trying to restrict access to get ahead of this a little bit.” Referring to a conference call that took place on Tuesday with Missouri state Governor Mike Parson, Hardin went on to state, “Statewide, there has been 281 negative tests conducted (as of 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 17). The positive cases is now at 15. By April 1, it is indicated that there will be enough test kits in the state of Missouri to conduct 10,000 tests on a daily basis. This is significantly higher than our capacity currently. The governor mentioned setting up a facility that will be specifically for these tests with the closest being in Lee's Summit. That being said, they are trying to get assistance from the National Guard to set up some mobile tents for drive-through testing and are looking for recommendations in our community where that may be possible. When I say our community, I don't necessarily mean it has to be in Nevada or Vernon County, but preferably somewhere between here and Lee's Summit.” Hardin also addressed the rumors of a food shortage in the nation. “There is no food shortage in the U.S.,” he noted. “All governors are having weekly meetings with the President and Vice-President. The problem is the time and the access to the materials, but there is no food shortage. I know that has been a big concern, not only here, but statewide. That's one of the things that led to Governor Parson's executive order on March 13. Not only did that allow the state to have access to state emergency plan and future funds (in excess of about $7 million additional), but it also lifted some MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) restrictions which will allow more freight to be transported on our state's highways. With the lifting of those restrictions, more supplies (mainly groceries) will be shipping and coming to our stores soon. The county recently partnered with the City of Nevada on CodeRED, an emergency mass notification system. Those contracts were signed with CodeRED two days ago. Unfortunately, it wasn't done a couple weeks ago, but that was just the timing. Nothing was done wrong by them or us. That system, once we get everything in place, will give certain individuals the ability to send out notifications to any of our subscribers (unlimited) and will go to their phones, tablets, or other devices.” The last thing that Hardin discussed has been a concern for health care providers and first responders — a lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). “There are a bunch of PPE's, if not an adequate amount, that is going to be shipped out” stated Hardin. “The governor's office yesterday indicated that that is going to be prioritized. He did not indicate how. More than likely probably the metropolitan areas first and then down to us in rural Missouri. They can not request more until those are shipped. Those will be on their way. If you are licensed with the state as an emergency responder or health care facility, you are automatically on that list to receive those. Our Emergency Management Director Derik White is developing a plan to effectively and efficiently get those PPE's out to those individuals as soon as they arrive here in Vernon County. Over 10 percent of the confirmed cases in the United States are medical professionals, with two confirmed deaths being emergency room doctors. It just shows the importance of the PPE's and supporting our responders as well as our health care professionals.”
Nevada Housing Authority
“The school district doing the grab-and-go lunches has been phenomenal and that helps particularly our school-aged kids,” stated Housing Authority Director Carol Branham. “My concern is our vulnerable population of the elderly and disabled and making sure those needs are met. We are calling all tenants again today. We first did our distribution of information Thursday in a letter to all tenants and hand-delivered on what our protocol is on being closed to the public right now. We're trying to see specific needs of medication or if they need groceries. I do have a couple of volunteer groups that have already contacted me and if we need to do stuff to individual units, they're willing to assist.”
On My Own, Inc.
“We have closed our office to the public as of today,” stated Executive Director Jennifer Gundy. “We are still, of course, going into our consumer and clients homes to provide care for them. You can still come to our office by appointment if you're needing something. We also take care of most of our things by phone. We are creating resource lists. We already talked to all of our clients and consumers last week to get them information and education on the virus — how to clean your house, how to self-isolate, different things like that. One need that we are having is we are not able to get hand sanitizer and we are needing that. We have it right now, but we are having trouble getting access to that. This is not something on the PPE list that we can get.” In addition, Gundy stated that On My Own, Inc., is putting together a resource list of grocery stores in their service areas and will be distributing that information. This will include which grocery stores do deliveries, have special shopping hours for seniors and people with disabilities. “We are also going to have staff members and volunteers that are willing to do grocery shopping for seniors and people with disabilities,” stated Gundy. “We will do this whether they are a consumer of ours or not.”
Elmwood Estates' office is currently open. Those who are setting up appointments are requested to inform the office if they have recently been sick, are currently sick, or been around anybody who is sick. They have sent out notifications to residents on what precautions they should take in response to COVID-19. Hand sanitizing stations have also been set up for residents.
Nevada Public Library
“We were very swift to close once we learned that the schools were going to be closed, as well as the community center,” stated Library Director Jodi Polk. “That was for the safety of the children who may have been part of a family scrambling for childcare. We knew we didn't have the staff to supervise a large number of children safely, and we didn't have the space to accommodate. Once we learned that many educational formats are going to transition to remote access, we are aware that many families don't have Internet in their home, and so our main priority was to open our free WiFi signal and to make that available in the parking areas around and near the library building. We've doubled our access points and it doesn't require a passkey. We've extended the hours on these access points to be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and we're going to closely monitor that network to make sure that we're able to provide reliable WiFi for families.” The second priority the library has addressed, according to Polk, has been the convenience of access to materials — both for educational purposes and entertainment purposes for the community. “We've reduced our staff to a skeleton crew,” stated Polk. “As long as we have two people available each day, we're going to offer curbside service. The public can reserve materials or call in and request a variety of things. We'll pull those, have them ready, meet them at the door and hand them out.” Due dates have also been extended and fines have been waived between now and the time the library is able to open for full-service.
Osage Prairie YMCA
Earlier this week, the YMCA restricted access to just their fitness center. Following suit with the other YMCAs across the state, however, they are actually looking to suspend operations for any of the wellness services at end of business Friday, March 20. Child care services will be limited to those with essential positions that will help keep the county moving and running (example: fire and police departments, first responders, health care professionals, etc.) The YMCA is in the process of setting up a site for both Elmwood and Fairground Estates to be able to deliver meals.
United Way 211 is currently being utilized. This is a free and confidential service that helps people across North America find the local resources they need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This can be accessed by phone or computer. A toll-free call to 211 connects you to a community resource specialist in your area who can put you in touch with local organizations that provide critical services that can improve — and save — lives. You’ll find information about supplemental food and nutrition programs; shelter and housing options and utilities assistance; emergency information and disaster relief; services for veterans; and health care, vaccination and health epidemic information.
The county offices are closed to the public, but Evergy is extending their shut-off. It is anticipated that there will be new households and families in the financial crisis that will need utility assistance. West Central will have people on the phone who can register families if you call the central office at (660) 476-2185. The OATS bus is maintaining their service, with the exclusion of taking residents to nursing homes.
Compass Health Network
Referrals are being asked to call ahead before they arrive. Lobby protocols are in place if somebody does show up. Telephone and telehealth related services will be Compass' main focus at this time. Compass had taken over Access Dental and it will be closed.
“We have asked all of our students, barring a few exceptions that we're making, to leave campus and return home,” stated Vice-President of Student Life Landon Adams. “Many students already have (returned home). We're expecting our numbers to drop down into the 30 to 40 range. We've cancelled all visits to campus. We are having many of our employees now work from home and restricted access to buildings. We are currently requiring isolation for any students who are returning to campus from other areas. Any faculty or staff that have travelled back to the area, we're asking them to self-isolate. We've also increased housekeeping. At this point, we've got a task force on campus and have been in contact with NRMC and Vernon County Health Department about how to proceed should any of our population be symptomatic.
Nevada R-5 School District
In regards to their current free grab-and-go lunch program that was implemented at the beginning of the school postponement, Superintendent Dr. Tyson Beshore stated, “We are looking at adding breakfast. We are in contact with the state for that action plan to get approved. It will still be just the one time pick-up and we will have the lunch that day with the breakfast for the following day in the same bag. As far as the busing goes for that, we are looking at our different options. We have to make sure we are meeting food safety guidelines.” The district is also looking into opening up their WiFi for use outside of the building within the next day or two. It was also announced that classes would be further postponed through April 3. “The areas that our students are gathering in the community is a concern,” stated Dr. Beshore. “Not going to call out any business, but we all know the businesses that we have a lot of high school kids that want to go sit and hang out. Any help in those areas I think helps our community significantly. I need assistance in making sure we are getting through to our community, especially our kids and their parents — they need to be at home instead of hanging out at some local establishments.”
“We are cancelling our Sunday morning experience for this Sunday and we will evaluate it weekly based on how things are going,” stated Steve Russ. Stressing the importance of service, Russ stated, “My hope is our people get involved and be the church in the community.”
Pine Street Baptist Church
Seniors are being contacted to make sure they are okay, in light of cancelled services. “Churches could be checking on families and their kids,” stated Pastor Chad Bailey. “I think that's an important element.”
Hours have been reduced with operation being from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., daily, to allow employees to clean and to restock items. As a corporation, sanitization of shopping carts is being looked at.
Nevada/Vernon County Chamber of Commerce
“The Chamber continues to send updates to businesses and community information through our Facebook page,” stated Director Sheree Gayman. “Also, yesterday, I started a group off our Facebook page called 'Nevada/Vernon County Updates,' and made it absolutely public. Anybody can post any supportive information or updates. It's definitely getting some traction — people are already starting to post on it. It's a forum for anybody to push out information.”
Nevada Downtown Retailers
“I have had messages from other businesses asking me what we should do,” stated Kitchen Essentials owner Traci Cliffman. “That's part of why I wanted to participate in this because we need guidance. We definitely want to be proactive, but we're small businesses as well. Obviously we are following the protocol. We are washing down everything with disinfectants and so forth, but what do we need to do? That's where we're all kind of at now.”
For 3M Nevada, a representative stated that the health and safety of the employees is their top priority. A developed Preparedness Plan is being implemented and specific protocols and procedures are being executed to protect the employees' health and safety. 3M is still in operation.
Heartland Behavioral Health
The campus and visitations are closed. Staff are screened as they come into the building for fever or signs of illness. If they are able to get through the screening, then they work, but are unable to leave campus during their shift. Heartland has been affected by the shortage of PPE availability and are concerned by specific things like thermometer probes. Currently they have about a 20 day supply to get through all of the patients and staff.
Vernon County Ambulance District
“We sat in yesterday with the Bureau of EMS, listened to the webinar, and basically we're looking at guidelines that were sent down by them,” stated VCAD Director Leland Splitter.
Information may be faxed, emailed, or by calling the radio station. Their office phone number is (417) 667-3113. “We have a multitude of platforms that we work with,” stated Mike Harbit. “Not just on air.” This includes a website, social media, and a podcast channel. “We are working with some of our marketing partners now on redirecting their message,” stated Harbit.
Nevada Daily Mail
The Nevada Daily Mail office is closed to the public beginning Monday, March 16. For the safety of everyone, contact the staff by email or phone. Please call to make an appointment to arrange pick up for Printshop products/items, or they can be mailed. Our duty is to disseminate information as soon as possible across all platforms. All pertinent COVID-19 information is available online at no charge to all. We are forming partnerships with all entities to provide as much information to the masses as possible.