On Friday afternoon President Trump declared a national emergency to help fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Closer to home, local agencies are busy laying the groundwork for how Southern Oklahoma will respond if the illness strikes in the area.
Regional Administrative Director for the Carter County Health Department Mendy Spohn said she has already set up an internal incident command and has recently conducted multiple community meetings with the medical community to find out their needs as well as what the public has been asking them. On Tuesday, she will be hosting a conference call for all the cities, counties and hospitals in her nine region district.
“It’s going to be a tactical discussion about the things they need and how I can assist them from public health,” Spohn said. “We’ve heard from our local physicians and urgent care centers that they are low on PPE (personal protective equipment), so we’re trying to get them hooked into our health care coalitions regionally and get some supplies purchased so we can help alleviate that.”
Spohn said her biggest concern at the moment is the potential of an overwhelmed medical system.
“Our medical community cannot be overwhelmed with people who are just worried,” Spohn said. “If people don’t have a valid reason to worry about their exposure (to coronavirus), their risk of illness is very low. We have to make sure that our medical facilities, our hospitals and our primary care offices are taking in the people who have severe illness. My worries are about protecting our long-term care patients, protecting our elderly populations and people with underlying conditions, and insuring that our medical community is operational and that they are able to help the people who need medical intervention.”
Spohn said that even if infected with coronavirus, the vast majority of people will not experience severe symptoms. She urged anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to the virus to contact the state COVID-19 Call Center at (877) 215-8336.
“That phone number is manned by live people — nurses, medical students, doctors and health department staff,” Spohn said. “They will help answer specific questions if someone is worried about their risk or what symptoms they are having, and they will give them current advice. That way people won’t have to call their doctor and overwhelm the phone system at their doctor’s office.”
She also suggested visiting coronavirus.health.ok.gov to find out the most up to date information about coronavirus in the state of Oklahoma.
Ardmore City Manager J.D. Spohn said he and other city officials will be meeting on Monday to discuss potential actions the city might take to mitigate the spread of the disease. They will also participate in the conference call on Tuesday.
“I’m meeting with executive staff on Monday about how we can possibly limit traffic inside City Hall and discuss whether or not we need to close some public facilities such as the library,” J.D. Spohn said. “We’ll also be discussing how we can make sure we have a continuity of operations for vital city services like water and sewer.”
Mr. Spohn also urged citizens not to overwhelm local retailers with panic buying.
“The panic buying seems to be getting out of control, and we’ve had a couple calls to my office about what the city can do,” J.D. Spohn said. “I would urge people to be proactive and get what they need but not over react and get into panic mode.”