County officials answered questions from Council members, citizens.
Frederick, Md (KM) A virtual coronavirus update was held Tuesday night by the Frederick County Council. It was an opportunity for county officials to provide details on how their agencies are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and answer questions from Council members and the public.
County Executive Jan Gardner led off the event by saying it will take some time for the economy, which is mostly shut down, to come back on line. “We do not expect that we will see any reopening of businesses and other activities. until such time we see 14 days of declining statistics, including death statistics, hospitalizations and the number of ICU beds,” she said.
Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer reminded citizens that seniors aren’t the only ones who contract the coronavirus. She said it affects all age groups.. “People in the 40’s and 50’s, a greater percent of them are testing positive then their percent in the general population,” she said.
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins was also on hand for the update, and he said precautions are being taken at the Detention Center to prevent any outbreaks of the coronavirus. He said staff at the jail have their temperatures taken before they begin their shifts, and after they go off duty. And all inmates undergo a temperature check before coming into the Detention Center. “We have yet to have any inmates infected, any more inmates coming in who have the virus,” he says. “None of our staff have been affected by it. So we’re in really good shape and I hope it continues.”
If there is an outbreak, Jenkins says the Work Release Center can be put into service. “That’s a plan B. If the jail becomes infected somehow, we will use that Work Release Center to move inmates,” he says
The Sheriff said medical staff are available around the clock.
But Jenkins said domestic violence cases are on the rise during this pandemic. “Generally a lot of what we’re doing right now is handling the domestic incidents,” he says. “We are seeing continued overdose cases, just about one fatal a week. A lot of non-fatal overdoses. So those numbers are continuing, along with a number of suicide threats and a number of suicides.”
Chief Tom Coe, Director of the Division of Fire and Rescue Services, says his agency has been planning for the coronavirus since January. He says dispatchers at the Emergency Communications Center are screening all callers to determine if there could be a danger for first responders out on that call. In addition, Chief Coe said wellness checks are conducted at the beginning of each shift,and ambulances are disinfected after a call. “Numerically, we had one fire and rescue person who did test positive for COVID-19. But that person was picked up through one of our wellness checks, sent home; and fortunately has recuperated, is back and to work and feeling great,” says Chief Coe.
He says so far 29 people have been quarantined due to high risk exposure, and all but two have been returned to duty. “We’ve taken a pretty aggressive stance of sending folks home who have what we’ve termed a high risk exposure to a COVID-positive patient which might mean that they did not have their PPE on. And that could have been for a simpler reason that the patient wasn’t initially symptomatic,” he says.
PPE is a personal protective equipment such as gowns, masks and gloves, which are used by first responders and medical personnel to protect themselves from coronavirus infection.
And PPE has been something that’s been in short supply in Frederick County, according to County Executive Gardner. “We still have shortages particularly on gowns. That affects our hospital and our nursing homes. And that is something that’s happening across the state, ” she says.
Jack Markey, Director of Emergency Management, says the materials which used to be supplied by the federal government are not available in the quantities needed. So the county had to work with the state to secure personal protective gear. But he says progress is being made as more manufacturers of these products come on line.
“We’re not happy where we are, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Markey says. “We’re starting to see a steady product flow into the county, and we’re feeling good about that at this time.”
By Kevin McManua