Georgia has been preparing for a pandemic since 2006, but the COVID-19 outbreak still appears to have caught communities off guard.
Jones County Emergency Management Director Don Graham said counties have practiced for a pandemic, and now it’s here.
“But this is a whole new animal,” he said.
At the time of the March 18 interview, Graham was working on the wording of a Declaration of Public Health Emergency that would be adopted by the Jones County Board of Commissioners Friday.
Part of the duties of the Emergency Management Director is to prepare for the after effects of the emergency, in this case the recovery of the county’s financial loss. He emphasized that everything the county does must be documented.
“I’m going be here until this is over,” he said.
Graham said he just placed a large order through GEMA for PPE’s (personal professional equipment) for the sheriff’s department. He said the equipment would be needed to prepare for the possibility that an inmate at the jail could need to be isolated.
The director said the county had been having daily Webex video conference calls with all of its department heads to update what was going on with the outbreak.
“We’ve been talking about day-to-day operations, needed supplies and cleaning instructions. We’ve discussed A-Z. It’s been very effective,” he said.
Graham said it was up to department heads to pass on the information, and he said they had been doing a good job at that.
“We’re very lucky to have the technology to do that,” he said.
The director said he is in constant touch with the Department of Public Health and the Jones County Health Department. He said Jones County adopted its current pandemic plan in 2008, but it has been updated.
One of the changes is moving the emergency access point from the previous Jones County High School to Gray Station Middle School. He said recent additions to the high school were the reason for the change.
“The middle school is the best place for the distribution of essential supplies and possible administration of vaccines,” Graham said.
The director said he has been in touch with local long-term nursing facilities and the dialysis center to let them know that he could be a resource in providing PPEs if needed.
Graham also visits local grocery stores each morning to check on the availability of food items. He said all fire stations have been closed to anyone other than essential personnel.
The director said a plan is in play with his department and dispatch operators at the sheriff’s department. He said the goal is to triage the calls, routing the sick calls to the medical center.
“We need to prioritize when a local response is needed to limit exposure,” Graham said.