Community representation conference call establishes communication pipeline amid COVID-19 pandemic

Friday, March 20, 2020

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

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.”