Sweetwater County COVID-19 EOC Confirms Number of Ventilators, Emergency Response Plan

Sweetwater County COVID-19 EOC Confirms Number of Ventilators, Emergency Response Plan

Emergency Response Operations Deputy Incident Commander, Jim Wamsley, addressed the media during Friday's Sweetwater County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center press briefing. Sweetwater County Government YouTube photo.

SWEETWATER COUNTY — A message of caution and unity were at the heart of Friday morning’s Sweetwater County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center press briefing.

Emergency Response Operations Incident Commander Randy Wendling and Deputy Incident Commander Jim Wamsley joined local media outlets to take questions and update the community on new information regarding the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

After several attempts by SweetwaterNOW throughout the last week to get more specific information regarding equipment available, like the number of ventilators, and available hospital beds, Wamsley said that there are currently 11 ventilators in Sweetwater County. Information regarding the number of beds and capacity limits in the county has still not been released.

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Emergency Response Plan

Several officials from the Sweetwater County COVID-19 EOC have confirmed that there is an emergency response plan. Wamsley revealed part of that plan when asked about a possible overcrowding at the hospital.

Wamsley reassured that they are working very closely with the hospital and other medical care providers to figure out how they will not only take care of COVID-19 patients but also how to care for routine illnesses and injuries.

Local officials are taking action in identifying possible locations to move patients to in Sweetwater County should an outbreak occur in the community. Once those locations are identified, the hospital and public health will review the locations to make sure needs can be met.

“It’s not just enough to have a large open space,” Wamsley said. “Ideally for a large open space you also don’t want to have any carpet in there because carpet is difficult to decontaminate. You want to have easy access so you can get personnel in and out of there.”

Wamsley said that they will also have to hammer out details as to what level of care is provided at each location. For example, recovering patients will be in a location further away from the treatment station, while those in the most critical condition will be located closer to medical care.

Wamsley stated that he couldn’t provide the facilities right now, but that they are getting ahead of the situation.

“I can tell you we are leaving no stone unturned in our communities to try and find those places and identify them ahead of this so that when that time comes it’s as easy as calling back here to the EOC,” Wamsley said.

At some point in the future there will be a vaccine

Emergency Response Operations Deputy Incident Commander, Jim Wamsley

Fire Department Changes

Wamsley also commented on changes to the fire department’s protocol for 911 calls. Questions have been developed for 911 calls to sort out who potentially has COVID-19 and who does not.

“Based on that, we have adjusted our response model,” Wamsley said.

If the person is suspected to have COVID-19, they will be isolated away from as many people as possible. One medic will then go in and assess the person and determine their needs. Based on the information acquired by the medic, only necessary personnel will then transport the person to the hospital.

Wamsley said that he could only speak for the fire department, but that law enforcement agencies work closely with the fire department and are more than likely taking similar measures.

Fire departments are also taking extra precautions with personnel. According to Wamsley, all personnel have their temperature taken at the beginning and middle of their shift. Guidelines have also been issued, discouraging those who feel sick to stay away from work.

“Through these measures, it is our goal to have zero personnel taken out of the workforce across Sweetwater County,” Wamsley said.

A Call for Action

Wamsley expressed the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and invited citizens to take care of each other.

“This current situation in our nation is unprecedented and it will be the task of our generation, of everyone who’s alive today, to make sure that we come through this as unscathed as humanely possible,” Wamsley said.

Wamsley said that the term “social distancing” should be changed to “physical distancing.” He expressed that it’s important to stay home and keep practicing sanitary actions.

“It is vitally important that we all, each and every one of us, do our part to make sure we control the spread of this sickness, so that the fewest number of people are infected at any given time,” Wamsley said.

By taking the situation seriously, Wamsley stated it would help flatten the curve, keep from opening emergency treatment centers and avoid forcing difficult decisions that other countries and states have had to make such as who lives and who dies.

“At some point in the future there will be a vaccine,” Wamsley said. “At some point in the future there will be a way to identify whether someone has antibodies or not and has already had that disease, even though they weren’t sick. But that’s a long ways down the road and we can’t plan on that train arriving before things get worse.”

Wamsley also warned that nobody should feel isolated. He invited everyone in the community to pick up the phone and call someone or reach out to a friend on social media.

“Even though we are all isolated, we are still a community and we can still take care of each other,” Wamsley said. “Take the time to take care of this community because I know together we can get through this. We can solve our problems and we can make that curve as flat as we want it to be.”

Below is the full press briefing from Friday morning: