Published: Mar. 26, 2020 at 4:21 p.m. CDT
By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
JEFFERSON – David Leary, State Department of Health Services deputy regional director in Tyler, said COVID-19 cases are “popping up like popcorn” all over Northeast Texas.
A case was confirmed in Harrison County, Thursday.
“I know providers and clinics can submit specimens to the state lab or to their normal private lab,” Leary said Wednesday.
If the test goes to the free state lab, DSHS will be immediately informed of a positive result. A private lab will notify the doctor first who must then notify the state.
Harrison County Judge Sims said he was aware of COVID-19 testing being done in Marshall.
Leary explained the procedure is invasive.
“A doctor can do it in his office if he has access to nasopharyngeal probe,” Leary said. “They stick a thing up in your nasal cavity to get a swab.”
Those waiting for free drive through screening may face a problem.
“Test kits are becoming critically low,” Leary said. “Even cities are having trouble getting test kits.”
Harrison, Cass, Morris, and Upshur are counties adjoining Marion County each with single confirmed cases of COVID-19. Marion County has zero confirmed cases. Caddo Parrish confirms 115 cases and one death.
Marion County Response
Marion County revealed Phase 1 of its three-step plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday.
“Marion County, City of Jefferson, and area agencies are working together in a collaborative task force to address our community response to the coronavirus (COVID-19),” the document declared.
Jefferson Mayor pro tem Victor Perot described the “COVID-19 Response for Marion County” as “a summary of those things that deal with the COVID-19” and the county’s 400-page Emergency Management Plan and “things that have come down from the different agencies.”
The “Response” was signed by Emergency Management Coordinator and Pct. 1 Constable David Capps, Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur and Jefferson Mayor Pro tem Victor Perot.
Phase 1, dated March 19, gives guidelines for individuals and families as well as for schools and childcare.
The “guidelines are voluntary but highly encouraged based on current data,” according to page 2.
The plan reminds residents to not go to work if they feel sick, practice good hygiene such as washing their hands frequently and monitor local information available in their communities about the disease.
The document also addresses social distancing.
“Avoid social gatherings of large groups. On March 16, the President recommended avoiding more than 10 people for the next 15 days. On March 15, the CDC recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks,” the document states.
On March 19, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered “every person in Texas shall avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.”
The response plan issued Tuesday does not reference the Governor’s order although it does state: “We are committed to following Governor Abbott’s directive.It should be noted that any current state or federal health directives supersede any less restrictive guidelines listed herein.”
The plan also addresses assisted living facilities and adult day care programs, workplaces and community and faith-based organizations.
Workplaces are asked to voluntarily conduct “regular health checks on arrival each day (e.g., temperature and respiratory symptom screening) of staff and visitors entering buildings.”
Phase 2 calls for the guidelines to become mandatory. This phase will be implemented once “evidence of community transmission or on the recommendation of the State of Texas.”
Response Plan versus Emergency Management Plan
“The Response,” Perot said, “tries to get things done to cover all the scenarios of the disease itself.”
The Jimplecute has obtained a copy of Marion County’s Emergency Management Plan (EMP).
The City of Jefferson has also adopted the same plan because “the city and the county work so well together,” Perot stated.
Marion County’s EMP is contained in two three-inch thick binders broken into sections including Warning, Communication, Shelter and Mass Care, Law Enforcement, Health and Medical Services, Human Services, Transportation, Legal, Direction and Control in addition to numerous sections the document refers to as annexes.
The Jimp obtained access to the document through a Texas Public Information Act request.
The Health and Medical Services and Shelter and Mass Care annexes are posted on www.Jimplecute1848.com. Some Texas counties post their entire Emergency Management Plan on their website.
The Emergency Management Plan lists facilities that can be utilized as field hospitals in case of mass casualties or sickness. Jefferson High School, Cypress Bend Adventist School, and Jefferson Christian Academy are listed as reception and care facilities on page C-1-2.
“David (Capps) has already notified the state about the old hospital, the Kellyville Center and the Transportation Center,” Perot revealed. Perot said it would be the state or federal governments’ responsibility to place those facilities into operation.
“I would not think the old hospital would be a viable building,” Jane Laster, Marion County Hospital District administrative assistant, told the Jimp last week, said. “The building was actually gifted to the county. We don’t own the building. I was told it has asbestos and a lot of problems.”
Perot said the asbestos can be abated.
The mayor pro tem also noted several Red Cross cots were prepositioned at the Transportation Center.
“Hopefully, we won’t need it,” Perot said.
In the Health and Medical Care annex, the EMP itemizes health care facilities in the region. Marshall Regional Medical Center, Glenn-Garrett Clinic, Good Shepherd Family Medical Center, Jefferson Family Health Clinic, and Marshall-Harrison County Health District are listed on page H-1-1.
Perot described the “Response” prepared by LaFleur as a “consensus of other cities and counties that the Marion County Judge had acquired through his association with other county judges.
Cass County Judge Becky Wilbanks and Titus County Judge Brian Lee told the Jimplecute they were not aware of the “Response.”
Harrison County Judge Chad Sims said Wednesday he will follow that county’s Emergency Management Plan when the time comes. A COVID-19 case was confirmed in Harrison County Thursday.
The Jimp also learned Tarrant County follows its Emergency Management Plan.
State Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, said he was not aware of the condensed “Response” or of any state agency that may have recommended it.
“There is not a COVID-19 response plan being issued by the state,” Titus County Emergency Management Coordinator Larry McRae said. “There is nothing in the emergency management community that I am aware of.”
The Jimp reached out by email Wednesday to LaFleur and Capps for an explanation of the relationship of the “Response” and the Emergency Management Plan but had not received a response by publication time.
Bob can be contacted at Bob@Jimplecute1848.com.
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