Franklin County commissioners Tuesday issued a disaster declaration for the county.
The official declaration allows the county to recoup costs associated with COVID-19 virus mitigation and suspends procurement procedures in order to allow for a timely order of supplies.
"This is something we've done for wind, rain and blizzard conditions, but it's the first for an infectious disease," said Commissioner Dave Keller. "It is standard operating procedure."
During the regular board of commissioners' meeting, officials from the department of emergency services, the Franklin County Jail, the agency on aging and the court administration, as well as WellSpan Health and Keystone Health provided updates on how they are handling the situation.
"As you all know, this is a rapidly spreading virus," said Raghavendra Tirupathi, medical director of Keystone Infectious Diseases and the Keystone Health HIV program. "You can never be completely prepared for something like this, but you can do your best to flatten the curve."
WellSpan Senior Vice President Sherri Stahl said officials there are working with Keystone, the county and other agencies to deliver quality care to county residents through an incident command structure at Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals as well as one on the SummitHealth campus.
"This is fast and fluid as far as decision-making," Stahl said. "What we are doing today may not look the same as what we do tomorrow."
Stahl said more than 400 people throughout WellSpan's service area have been tested for COVID-19 and tests are taking up to 48 hours to come back.
In the meantime, hospital staff is taking precautions and practicing social distancing between among themselves and during interaction with patients.
"We are planning for the worst case scenario," Stahl said.
Across county operations, departments are taking precautions to address COVID-19.
*** Emergency services ***
"We have someone in the emergency operations center during regular business hours to take phone calls and give out information," said Jacob Crider, county director of emergency services. "If things come to a total halt in the county, we'll have someone around the clock to help."
Crider said the 911 center has a protocol for when people call in and those who call may be asked extra questions.
Crider said questions could include asking the caller whether they or those involved in the emergency have symptoms of the virus. He said the questions should be answered honestly and it will not affect emergency dispatch.
"The main purpose is we want our first responders prepared so they have the proper equipment," Crider explained. "As soon as the 911 call is answered, we dispatch the ambulance."
*** Court ***
Court in Franklin County's 39th Judicial District remains open.
"The court, in conjunction with the administrative office of Pennsylvania Courts and local county governments in the 39th Judicial District are closely monitoring developments on the spread of coronavirus," said Court Administrator Mark Singer. "The goal is to continue proceedings when warranted."
Singer said court officials are limiting visitors and suggest minimizing large gatherings during court proceedings, as well as using technology when possible. Court staff will be reviewing jury pools within state protocols to ensure a healthy courtroom. Anyone who is scheduled for court but who is feeling ill should call the court administration office at 717-261-3848.
Singer said weddings, adoptions and other court services will continue as scheduled.
*** County operations ***
Franklin County Administrator Carrie Gray said officials are taking a series of actions to protect staff and residents.
She said jail visits have been restricted, senior centers closed, non-essential events postponed and non-essential travel by employees restricted.
"We are working toward remote work for staff," Gray said.
Gray said county offices will remain open to residents.
"All services are available to the public at all facilities," Gray said. "As of this moment, we haven't planned on closing specific offices."
Recently, county commissioners agreed to host a quarterly board meeting somewhere in the county other than Chambersburg, with the first evening meeting scheduled for March 24 in Waynesboro. That meeting has been cancelled.
"We want to support the notion of people staying home and not congregating in large numbers," Gray explained.
"It's up to each and every one of us to mitigate the spread of the virus. Practice social distancing, stay home if you are sick and wash your hands," Keller said. "This is an unprecedented and evolving situation. We must be patient ... we're in this together and we will overcome this together."