Butler County gathers task force to collaborate on coronavirus issues

A task force of about 30 decision-makers from across Butler County gathered this week to plan for the ongoing battle to contain the coronavirus and ensure people who need help get it.

County Emergency Management Agency Director Matt Haverkos said the group discussed everything from whether important sectors in this crisis have the equipment they need all the way to ensuring those with addiction issues don’t backslide under the stress.

“There were 30 partners there and everybody got a little bit of an opportunity to talk about their current status and what do they need,” Haverkos said. “The whole point of that is to be looking out for seven days forward, the current immediate needs in the community in my estimation are being met.”

As of Wednesday there were eight confirmed coronavirus cases and a dozen pending test results countywide. County health commissioner Jenny Bailer convened the task force that has representatives from law enforcement, schools, government, hospitals, long term care facilities, mental health, addiction treatment, mass transit, fire departments, the visitors bureau and others.

RELATED: Butler County’s state of emergency declaration: What does it mean?

Haverkos said pulling the director of the 211 public information hotline into the group was helpful, because all the different entities can make sure people who call the hotline get the most complete and up-to-date information.

It will also further the effort to feed kids who would otherwise go hungry since schools are closed, because 211 has a “portal” for culling volunteers.

“That’s one of these takeaways, not only do we build a partnership with 211 to make sure we’re all on one message and have the same information, but with that, 211 has an avenue to collect some of the volunteers to support the feeding efforts going on,” Haverkos said.

Haverkos said his agency has performed about 60 “missions” since Monday, many involving the food effort.

His agency has also delivered about 5,000 personal protection items to first responders, hospitals and other entities that are dealing directly with sick, potentially infected people.

West Chester Twp. Police Chief Joel Herzog said his officers are all equipped with special suits to wear in case they come in contact with an infected person. EMA provided his department with an additional 100 kits.

“Obviously you don’t want to just put it on for no reason, you might be able to reuse a mask but a suit once it’s infected it is done,” Herzog said. “So they did come through for us.”

The county commissioners declared a state of emergency Monday and urged Bailer to try to reach those most vulnerable, who right now are people 65 and older, to let them know help is available.

Commissioner Don Dixon said much emphasis has been put on protecting nursing home residents and elderly who are already receiving services such as Meals on Wheels, but those people are in the minority of the elderly population.

“There’s a lot of seniors who don’t fall into any of those categories,” Dixon said. “I don’t know how you get to those folks, maybe having a senior hotline or something, because a lot of them are afraid to ask, or don’t know how to ask and I have to think it’s terribly frightening for those folks.”

Haverkos said agencies like the Council on Aging and others that regularly deal with the elderly are task force members and working on developing a plan to reach those people.

“Those leaders who deal with that on a regular basis are developing a plan to make a media push to connect to those individuals,” he said. “That was what was a take-away was those folks would develop that push, reach out and make sure there is an avenue should they need someone to deliver that food for example.”

Bailer’s Public Information Officer Erin Smiley said Bailer is in charge of that effort and they don’t have a concrete plan yet, but they plan to tap into data from the Centers for Disease Control that can help them identify where these seniors live and get them help.

The commissioners’ emergency declaration also implements a three-tiered approach to how the county government will function during the emergency, with hopes to contain spread of the potentially deadly disease.

County Administrator Judi Boyko said a major step in minimizing the spread for people needing county services was implemented Wednesday when the lobby of Job and Family Services was “moved” to a conference room on the first floor of Government Services Center. The rooms, which are closest to the parking garage on the south side of the building have their own separate entrance.

“We have significant traffic to those floors and those people,” she said. “We’ve attempted to be a good landlord and try to restrict that traffic from coming into the building if someone is affected, impacting other offices in this building.”

Coronavirus resources

  • Ohio Department of Health hotline: 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (staffed from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day)
  • ODH updates: coronavirus.ohio.gov
  • Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services helpline: 1-877-275-6364
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Butler County hotline: 1-844-4CRISIS
  • Ohio crisis text line: Text keyword "4HOPE" to 741 741
  • Complete Journal-News coverage: bit.ly/coronavirusjn

How to take precautions

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean "high-touch" surfaces daily. These include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, light switches, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, desks, and tablets.

Source: Ohio Department of Health

About the Author