Local leaders held a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon updating residents about what they are doing to keep residents and employees safe during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The panel members were Scottsboro Mayor Robin Shelton, County Commission Chairman Tim Guffey, Scottsboro Police Chief Ralph Dawe, Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus, Scottsboro City Schools Superintendent Dr. Jay Reyes, Northeast Alabama Health Services, Inc. (NEAHSI) CEO Deborah Culpepper, NEAHSI director of clinical services Jennifer Sanders, Highlands Medical Center CEO John Anderson and Highlands Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lonnie Albin.
Shelton said he is following Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Public Health's recommendations, guidelines, and orders when it comes to leaving various industries. open.
He said he does not believe a shelter in place order is necessary at this time. He said that an essential business is one that meets the needs of not only the individual, but also commerce as a whole.
Anderson discussed the success of his system's drive-through COVID-19 screening and test site. He said they plan to continue Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. as long as supplies last. A patient does need a doctor order to be tested at this site.
He encouraged residents to keep the safety of caregivers and their families in their prayers. He said if anyone would like to volunteer time or service, to call (256) 218-3782.
Albin followed up by reminding everyone of the importance of hand washing and social distancing.
The turnaround time for COVID-19 test results through their labs have gone down from the initial seven days when the virus began taking over to the current 36 hours. Hospital officials said that still depends on how inundated the lab is at the time.
Albin explained that COVID-19 can be spread through air droplets ranging within three or four feet with a sneeze or heavy cough. He said that people touch their faces an average of 50 times an hour, so it's important for people to not touch their face after touching unclean surfaces.
Culpepper said there are seven NEAHSI community health centers; five in Jackson County and two in Dekalb County. She said they have closed the buildings in the morning hours except for patients with appointments, those who are elderly, or those who are well. The closure also gives the providers the opportunity to call in prescription refills.
She said there are COVID-19 notices posted on exterior doors of the centers. The notices urge patients that if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or believe they may have been exposed, to go back to their vehicle and call a posted phone number for the medical director. She explained that the medical director is screening calls to let them know if they should be tested.
She said at the end of each day, the staff disinfects the facility and its equipment top to bottom.
The first drive-through COVID-19 screening and testing site was opened on March 28, 2020.
Culpepper said they are utilizing two labs for COVID-19 testing. She explained that the turnaround for results is anywhere from 24 hours to six days depending on the number of test submissions to the labs.
Sanders spearheaded the drive-through testing. She said they will continue as long as they have enough resources to provide it to the community.
Sanders broke down what to expect at the drive-through COVID-19 screening and testing site. Everyone must show photo ID and insurance. If they do not have insurance, they will need to fill out a sliding fee application. A doctor's order is not required at the NEAHSI site, but a doctor will be there to consult with patients about their symptoms to decide whether they should be tested.
Sanders said people should stay in their vehicle and should not roll down their window. She added there is no restroom available.
Guffey stated the courthouse would remain closed to the public until April 20, 2020. He encouraged residents to utilize the county website to fulfill their needs.
Guffey said while the Council on Aging is still providing meals to existing clients, they will begin delivering shelf-stable meals starting April 6. Guffey also received a question asking if he would close County Park during this time. He said he would not right now because there are businesses still open and residents that live at the park.
Dawe said his department is making several modifications amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. He is encouraging officers wash their hands as they get in and out of vehicles and the buildings. He also suggests they stand 10 feet apart from each other. Dawe said they are also sanitizing all surfaces including doorknobs, countertops, and keypads each day.
He said that officers are now doing "field arrests", where the perpetrator is given a citation in order to keep contact between the outside world and the jail down. Dawe said if someone is arrested and taken into custody, the suspect will be put into a quarantine area and be decontaminated.
A nurse will then screen the suspect about any COVID-19 symptoms or exposure they may have had. The nurse will determine if the suspect can be booked and put into the general population of the jail. Dawe said he hopes these measures limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19.
Necklaus said they are working keep their first responders healthy in many ways, including limiting public access to the fire station. He said they have also stopped outside training, building inspections, and public education events.
He added that dispatchers have adapted their screening process to try and identify patients who may have COVID-19 symptoms, are carriers, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Necklaus said as new information comes in about COVID-19 symptoms, the screening process evolves.
He said that they are also changing how they approach calls. Necklaus explained that as of right now, only one responder will make initial contact with a patient to evaluate them, as opposed to the usual three or four responders.
Necklaus said based on the current rate of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use, they have enough to get through the next several days. He added that they are working with the Emergency Management Agency, private vendors, and the national stockpile to get more.
Reyes gave an update on how students will proceed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. He said students would continue their work through an academic continuity plan for all of the students except for Seniors. Seniors in good standing at this time will be considered high school graduates. The plan begins on Tuesday, April 7.
Reyes mentioned they are going to do as many senior activities as they can and plan to release dates for prom and graduation within the coming days.
The Nourish One Child program with Scottsboro City Schools began delivering food to students Monday afternoon. On the initial day, volunteers delivered bags containing multiple meals to more than 300 children
Bus drivers deliver food each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to various locations.