The number of confirmed Butler County coronavirus cases nearly tripled in a week to 17, and leaders at the forefront of trying to contain the pandemic are preparing for the future, when supplies could be exhausted and the hospital system overwhelmed.
Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer briefed the county commissioners Monday, saying there are 17 cases, up from six a week ago. She has issued 73 quarantine orders, and four patients have been hospitalized. No one has died from the virus.
“Our hospitalization rate currently is four,” Bailer told the county commissioners. “I consider us to be fairly lucky that out of 17 only four have had to be hospitalized. That’s a good thing.”
The age range of those infected is 1 to 78 years old, the median age is 52 and the average age is 48.7 years old. She said travel was related to the first confirmed case and one other, that 10 people came in close contact with infected people and the origin is unknown for four positive cases.
Commissioner Don Dixon expressed extreme frustration over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical personnel, saying that “if you lose those (people) you’ve lost the whole battle.”
He said the county must find a way procure enough masks, gloves and other equipment.
“What can we do? I hear that there are some products that are available but we’re all in competition for the same thing,” Dixon said. “We’re all trying to get the same thing and it’s who gets there first, it’s not who needs it the most.”
The Butler County Emergency Management Agency is in charge of collecting and distributing extra PPEs to first responders and medical facilities. EMA Director Matt Haverkos told the Journal-News after the meeting the agency has 6,000 masks and enough other gear to meet the current demand.
“We have provided PPE supplies to every jurisdiction in the county,” Haverkos said. “We have requests from some of the hospitals, any immediate needs we have filled for the hospitals. And then what we’ve started is a process that all the counties are doing right now which is called the long-term requests that would be coming through the strategic national stockpile. Butler County is poised to receive our strategic national stockpile as early as today.”
The commissioners have told Bailer they will financially support her, but they need to know specifics.
“Even the phrase you just used, down the road,” Commissioner T.C. Rogers told Bailer and Haverkos. “What does that mean, does that mean Friday or May the 1st?”
Bailer and Haverkos met with the commissioners after the meeting to discuss some specifics.
Bailer said her team is now moving into the next phase of epidemic fight, preparing for a “surge” on the health care system.
“Where I am today is to obtain and secure sites for mass housing and alternate care centers. That is a big lift for us but I feel it’s time to get that secured,” Bailer said. “What that means is securing a hotel or a school or a dormitory or some kind of place where we can have rooms that we can quarantine people in, that have a private room with a bathroom and it has to be a lot of them available to us, so we can move immediately if we need to.”
With the permission of the Butler County Common Pleas Court judges, Sheriff Richard Jones has been freeing up space at county jail facilities by releasing some non-violent offenders to reduce “community spread” of the disease. Chief Anthony Dwyer said Jones has offered jail facilities if the surge is severe.
“With the reduction in inmate population we were able to identify a space and basically go in retrofit it, if there was a need, to have space available,” Dwyer told the Journal-News. “We’ve talked to the health commissioner and discussed that we do have space available if it was critically needed. Obviously this is not a perfect solution, but obviously there’s not a lot of perfect solutions occurring right now.”
Haverkos told the commissioners the county’s visitors bureau is heavily involved in locating available hotel rooms in case the situation becomes dire.
Bailer has been attending the commissioners’ meetings for several weeks to give updates. Dixon asked County Administrator Judi Boyko to set up a weekly press conference to be held on Friday afternoons and regularly post information on the commissioners’ website to keep the public updated.
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