City and County Respond to COVID-19
March 18, 2020
The City of Glasgow and Valley County are working on plans to maintain essential services in the wake of a statewide emergency declaration by Governor Steve Bullock on March 15. Representatives and elected officials from government, local establishments and clergy from area churches met in a planning meeting held the morning of March 16, at the county courthouse to discuss the city-county plan to maintain essential services during the emergency declaration.
According to County Commissioner Mary Armstrong, who is spearheading the county response along with Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Rick Seiler and the County Health Department’s Crystal Alvarado and Lynn Miller, the county has defined essential services broadly. The aim is to maintain all government services at the county courthouse, including treasurer, clerk and recorder and motor vehicles alongside emergency and sanitation services like 911, law enforcement, detention services, waste management and water treatment.
“Almost everything we do is required to be open under state law,” commented Armstrong, while discussing the county and city response to the declaration by the governor.
Among the other action items discussed at the meeting, Armstrong said that the county is working to ensure that employees remain safe and healthy by sanitizing county facilities, practicing social distancing and asking all sick employees to stay home. They are also encouraging members of the public to do the same and promoting the Centers for Disease Control and State Health Department Guidelines that people not congregate in groups of more than 50 people. (Following the Courier’s discussion with Armstrong, President Trump updated the Federal guidelines on COVID-19 and asked that people not congregate in groups larger than 10 people.)
“Essential partners in the community are working together to create a plan to keep the community safe,” Alvarado told the Courier.
Also a concern for the county is ensuring daycare and babysitters understand safe practices during the statewide school closure. Armstrong reiterated Superintendent of Glasgow Schools Wade Sundby’s clarification that the school closure is meant to limit children congregating in large groups. In order to keep essential employees coming to work, the county is also looking for ways to broaden childcare for employees to ensure they can make it to work following the school closures.
“We want to make sure our employees can come to work, if healthy, and make sure they have a safe place for their children,” stated Armstrong.
Of most concern to the county is the senior population. Armstrong stated that the Senior Citizens Centers are closed and the county has stopped all communal meals until further notice. They will continue to provide meals on wheels to seniors across the county. She also said that the county is working with religious groups and others to develop ways to reach and check in on the health of seniors who may become isolated as a result of the emergency declaration.
“We are working on a system to check on isolated seniors and provide for their needs while adhering to social distancing,” said Armstrong, adding that protecting the senior population was the primary focus of the prevention measures.
The declaration came so fast from the Governors office that the county’s response launched at the early morning meeting, which was supposed to feature only a few officials but grew to a social organizing of more than 50 participants all of whom were concerned about the disaster’s effects on daily life. Armstrong said the community involvement and self-organization amongst the various groups was a heartening sign.
All county board meetings (landfill, DES, etc.) will be canceled through the month. Likewise, all city board meetings are canceled, but City Council Meetings will continue to be held to maintain government operations.
The county and local municipalities will continue to coordinate in a morning teleconference to maintain and update their essential services plan during the COVID-19 crisis. In the meantime, Armstrong stressed that the county was open for business, keeping everything sanitized and trying to help their employees feel safe in the midst of the outbreak. Other priorities include educating the community and preparing for what is to come.
“It’s up to all of us,” she said, “so we’re working it.”