By Aila Boyd
Last Tuesday, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors received an update on the efforts that the county is making to deal with the coronavirus.
Jason Ferguson, the county’s chief of fire & EMS, started his presentation by giving a timeline on the COVID-19 situation.
- On March 5, a local Coronavirus Planning Taskforce was created.
- On March 7, the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Virginia.
- On March 10, the Coronavirus Planning Taskforce met in conjunction with Botetourt County Public Schools.
- On March 12, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency.
- On March 13, the Roanoke regional governments held a conference call.
- On March 13, it was announced that schools statewide would close for two weeks.
- On March 16, a local state of emergency declaration was issued and government offices were closed.
- On March 19, the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Botetourt County.
- On March 23, it was announced that schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year and that all non-essential business should close.
Ferguson said that he feels that Botetourt County has made the right decisions concerning COVID-19 at the right time. “Closing of the local government offices, while challenging to the public, ultimately is protecting the public and our workforce,” he said.
The Coronavirus Planning Taskforce includes representatives from the county’s Information Technologies, Parks and Recreation, County Administration departments, Botetourt County Libraries, and Botetourt County Public Schools. Ferguson is leading the taskforce.
Ferguson said that the deployment of Office 365 has been a “godsend” in allowing the county to continue to conduct business.
According to Ferguson, the county is currently doing the following:
- Planning calls related to COVID-19 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
- Daily operational calls for fire and EMS
- Biweekly calls with all of the Roanoke regional governments
- Biweekly calls with volunteer fire and EMS volunteer chief
- Regional coordination for first responders and public testing
- Increased cleaning of all facilities still in use
- Coordinative efforts with local public health officials
“Obviously we continue to watch this thing very, very closely and prepare for the potential of a wave to hit Southwest Virginia,” Ferguson explained. “We’re looking at models for what we would have to do if 20 to 40 percent of our workforce is out. From a public safety perspective, we actually have to have physical bodies in the seats responding to the calls and handling new situations. That can’t be done via remote access.”
He noted that the county continues to monitor the availability of personal protective gear. “It’s obviously been scarce, but our partners have been willing to step up and help us out where they could so that we’re propped up until the national strategic stockpile rolls out,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors also voted to ratify the declaration of a local emergency that was made by the county administrator on March 16 in response to COVID-19. The declaration was made in conjunction with the City of Salem, City of Roanoke, the County of Roanoke, and the Town of Vinton.