Local officials meet at the Meigs County Health Department to address concerns when schools reopen and other responses to COVID-19. Submitted photo.

Updates on Measures as Coronavirus Response Continues

(EDITOR’S NOTE: As promised, the Meigs Independent Press is not going to throw article after article out there concerning the situation with the Coronavirus pandemic. If imperative, breaking information is necessary, then it will be posted. The following article addresses various levels of the response including the President’s declaration to local schools working to feed students during the schools being closed.)  

MEIGS COUNTY, Ohio – With the ongoing situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19), various agencies from the White House down have made statements, held press conferences, made announcements and opened up resources on March 13, 2020 concerning the pandemic.

President Declares National State of Emergency

During a press conference at the White House, President Donald J. Trump announced that he was declaring a state of emergency to address the COVID-19 crisis. The declaration opens up various resources across the federal government to deal with the pandemic in the United States. A portion of the declaration reads, “The spread of COVID-19 within our Nation’s communities threatens to strain our Nation’s healthcare systems.  As of March 12, 2020, 1,645 people from 47 States have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.  It is incumbent on hospitals and medical facilities throughout the country to assess their preparedness posture and be prepared to surge capacity and capability.  Additional measures, however, are needed to successfully contain and combat the virus in the United States.”

Some of the President’s measures taken today include:

  • Small Business Administration has authority and available funding to make over $7 billion in loans to qualifying small businesses to assist economic recovery
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced guidance to limit medically unnecessary visits to nursing homes to protect vulnerable elderly Americans
  • Secretary of the Education will be waiving interest on all student loans held by the Federal Government
  • President is directing the Department of Energy to purchase large quantities of crude oil for the strategic reserve

“In times of hardship the true character of America shines through,” President Trump said during the press conference.

Ohio Governor DeWine Gives Update

Governor Mike DeWine held a press conference along with other officials and updated information on the state’s response to current COVID-19 situation.

“Some of the tough decisions have been made,” DeWine said of closing schools and other decisions made yesterday to help slow/stop the spread of COVID-19 and added, “Our job is to help everyone to get through this.”

As part of getting through the current situation, DeWine announced there would be a relaxing of certain regulations such as the child/teacher ratio for daycare centers. He said as adults become ill, they need to not be around others which means there may be less teachers. By reducing the ratio slightly, it will enable daycares to remain open. While no decision has been made to close daycares across the state, DeWine did ask that people begin to consider other care options for their children noting, “They pose a unique risk.”

DeWine also asked that people be mindful of grandparents, and older adults that may be taking care of children. While children do not get as sick with COVID-19, they can be carriers which is one of the reasons DeWine closed Ohio’s schools. He stated that if you have a caregiver of a child that is 60 or older, parents should be looking at that. “The older the person, the greater the risk. We need to be mindful of that,” DeWine said.

DeWine said that this current situation is a storm, but one that Ohio can get through if everyone works together. “We can weather this storm. It will last a while, but we will get back to normal,” he said.

Updated numbers were given on the current confirmed cases with the total confirmed cases up to 13. According to the Ohio Department of Health, 159 persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 and there have been 50 negative PUIs. Also, 333 individuals are under health supervision. At present, the confirmed cases have been in Cuyahoga, Butler, Belmont, Stark, Summit, and Trumbull counties. 

Currently according to the Center Disease Control, “The ‘incubation’ period means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data become available.”

Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio Department of Health

Dr. Amy Acton director of the Ohio Health Department continued to stress that this is a new disease, that spreads quickly, more quickly than the H1N1 virus. She continued to urge using basic precautions of hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, social distancing and staying away from large groups to slow/stop the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, where there have been positive test results, epidemiologists are working to determine contact with the public and someone that has tested positive. Epidemiologists are currently working in Ohio on 12 hour shifts. 

Dr. Acton, whose credentials include being a professor of Global Public Health at The Ohio State University, noted that this is a different situation than those they have experienced in the past with influenza. She said a lot of responding is timing, and getting the timing right. “On the front end of a pandemic you look like an alarmist, a Chicken Little, but on the back end you didn’t do enough.”

She noted that it is the 113 local health departments that on the front lines of this situation. 

Meigs County Health Department

Locally, the Meigs County Health Department continued to work to address the various layers of response to COVID-19. Members of the health department staff met with area school officials to discuss COVID-19 and what the schools can do to help slow the spread during the weeks to come including when they return to school. Next week members of the local health department will conduct conference calls with other county officials and partners to further discuss response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Meigs County Health Department joins with other organizations to continue to advise precautionary measures such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes to help prevent the spread of the virus. 

Ohio Election Still On for March 17

Governor DeWine was clear along with Lt. Governor Jon Husted that the election process in Ohio is underway with early voting and that the election will still go on as scheduled. They noted that the risk is less because typically, polling places do not have large gatherings of people in them at one time. 

In Meigs County, early voting is still open with at the Meigs County Board of Elections located 113 East Memorial Drive Suite A in Pomeroy, Ohio will open the following times for voting prior to March 17 Election Day:

  • March 14 open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • March 15 open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. 
  • March 16 open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Voters who are in line at the time of closing will be permitted to vote.

Poll workers will be working to keep the new voting machines in the county wiped down and have had COVID-19 as part of trainings as well. According to a statement from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose the election will continue, “Further, guidance from voting machine manufacturers on how best to sanitize machines, guidance from CDC on best practices for hand washing, and guidance from our respective state health officials is being provided to every polling location.”

Holzer Health System Response

According to a statement from Holzer Health System, they do not have any confirmed cases of the Coronavirus Disease COVID-19 at their facilities. “Our system has formed a multi-disciplinary task force to ensure that our patients, communities, and employees are provided with safe care. Staff are utilizing educational materials provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce risks. In addition, our caregivers are utilizing algorithms for identifying and treating symptoms, safety precautions for patients, visitors, and staff, and streamlining the process for individuals who may present to our locations in need of COVID-19 screening,” read the statement.

Holzer Health System further encourages using the following precautions provided by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH):

  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals
  • Wash hands often with water and soap (20 seconds or longer)
  • Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry your hands
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands or after touching surfaces
  • Clean and disinfect high touch (counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, and tablets) surfaces often
  • Call before visiting your doctor
  • Practice good hygiene habits

“Holzer Health System is working closely with our state and local health department agencies for any needs that may arise in our communities in response to COVID-19. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Dr. Acton have convened a group of health advisors from the Ohio Hospital Association, which includes Holzer’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Canady, MD, MBA,” concluded the statement. 

Meigs County Library Response

A statement from the library states, “The Meigs Library staff cares about our community, including patrons and staff.”

As a response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the precautions issued by health officials and the Governor of Ohio for social distancing the library has taken the following measures:

  • Eastern Library Closing Due to the school closing, the public library will be closed March 16 – 20. At this time, the plan is to reopen the public library on March 23. Check in often for updates to this schedule on the library’s website and social media
  • Frequent sanitation of all four locations library staff disinfect high-touch areas multiple times throughout the day. Books, DVDs, etc. are also being cleaned upon return
  • Removal of puzzles, toys, etc. from children’s area
  • Extended due dates the library does not charge fines and will extend the due dates for all material currently checked out
  • Curb-Side Service – Pomeroy Library only At-risk populations should stay in their cars instead of coming into the library. Library staff will deliver (freshly sanitized) material to patrons in vehicles in the parking lot of the Pomeroy Library. Fax, scan-to-email, copying, and other library services may be completed this way as well. Call 740-992-5813 for this service, with a list of requested material
  • Book Return Each library location has a book return outside of the building
  • Scan-to-email Students with schoolwork which must be submitted via email may visit any library location for the “scan-to-email” option. There is no charge for this service
  • Learning-at-home resources for students Databases are available on the library’s website at www.meigslibrary.org/dbases. Enter your library card number for access
  • Remote library card sign-up If you do not have a library card, please email contact@meigslibrary.org with your full name, date of birth, address, phone number and email address to sign up for a library card. We will issue an account via email, or provide your card number as needed. You may also call the library to update your library card or request your card number at 740-992-5813
  • Wi-Fi Access the library’s wi-fi connection 24/7 at each location from the parking lot
  • Access to digital material e-Books, audiobooks, online learning, movies, TV, music, and more may be accessed from home with your library card number and PIN.
  • The following services are available to Meigs Library users: Libby/OverDrive Access the Ohio Digital Library through the Libby app or your desktop; Hoopla Digital Stream or download music, movies, audiobooks and more with the Hoopla app (also available on desktop); Lynda.com Use your library card to set up an account for professional development, learn a new skill, etc.

AEP & Electric Service

The electric company released this statement, “AEP is temporarily suspending all disconnections for non-payment as the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread in our communities. We know our customers are concerned about their families and ensuring they have reliable electric service allows them to focus on staying healthy and well. AEP is committed to doing what we can to help our customers, our employees, and the communities we serve navigate this uncertain time.”

Meigs County Council on Aging

The Council on Aging is continuing to serve senior citizens in Meigs County, but have shut down “center-based operations” which means they will not have the senior lunch program and senior events/activities at the center itself. They are continuing to serve seniors with the Meals on Wheels program, modified transportation, and homemaker services. Follow the Meigs Wellness Center Facebook page for the latest information concerning those services and activities.

Southern Local School District

The district is working on a plan to feed students through bussing a breakfast and lunch to drop-off points daily. More information will be released as details become finalized. Currently there are plans to begin delivery on March 23 to Portland Elementary (Community Center), across from the former Letart Falls Elementary, Syracuse, Kerrs Run bus drop ( old water works), and the back of the Southern School at the kitchen. Times are tentatively set for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. but this could change pending guidelines in the application.                                    

Additionally, through various church groups and civic organizations, donations, school personnel, and volunteers along with Elementary Principal Tricia McNickle, they were able to feed over 100 students this weekend. Plans for feeding students next week from March 16-20 are being finalized. More information is still coming on Southern’s continued response to the COVID-19 situation.

More Food Options for Students

Due to the recent school closings many local families will struggle to meet their daily nutritional needs. The Meigs Prayer Task Force and RISE Program are working to bridge the gap by providing sack lunches in a “grab and go” style from the Middleport Church of Christ. 

On March 14, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. donations will be accepted toward this effort. Items for donation include: pop tarts; granola bars; little boxes of cereal; lunchables; little bags of chips; Yoo-hoo (not cold); bottled water; fruit snacks; individually packaged applesauce; pudding cups; raisins; peanut butter and jelly individually wrapped sandwiches (frozen section); fruit (fresh or diced individually packaged); string cheese sticks; bread; peanut butter; jelly; go gurt; juice boxes. Monetary donations can be made as well. 

Gallia-Meigs Community Action Agency

With the State of Emergency declaration, policy requirements such as face-to-face interviews for Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) applications have been temporarily suspended. Applications can be submitted online at www.energyhelp.ohio.gov/ or via hand delivery or mail to Gallia-Meigs CAA, 8010 SR 7 PO Box 272, Cheshire, Ohio 45631. They can also be faxed to 740-367-7343. For more information, visit the agency’s Facebook page or website linked above. The Winter Crisis Program season ends on March 31. 

Businesses Closings or Modifying Services & Church Services

Throughout the county, various businesses are closing, or modifying services such as offering curb side services as the Meigs County Library is in Pomeroy for those in at-risk groups such as those over 60 and those that have underlying health conditions. Check with various businesses if you are in those groups as they are continuing to develop. Additionally, churches throughout the county are making decisions on holding services. The MIP will update a list of those churches closing as much as possible this weekend.