Local first responders discuss coronavirus
Local first responders are handling the novel coronavirus epidemic much like everyone else is. They're keeping their distance, washing their hands and staying home when they're sick.
At the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, that meant five deputies stayed isolated for a couple of weeks because they were among 300 people at the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training when there was a suspected case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Sheriff Jim Adkins said it turned out the man had pneumonia, not COVID-19, which he was originally told.
"I made the decision to just isolate my people, voluntary isolation," Adkins said. They'll be back to work this week.
Adkins' other concern is keeping COVID-19 out of the Jefferson County Correctional Facility.
"Right now, I don't have any real sickness in my jail," Adkins said.
There are 44 inmates, and they are not in isolated cells. The jail commander is making sure people with symptoms are sent to the hospital, Adkins said.
"We're still going to do our job," he said. "We're still going to be bringing people to jail."
Adkins encouraged people who feel stressed to reach out for mental health help, especially if they are feeling suicidal.
Madras Police Chief Tanner Stanfill said his department has made some changes.
"We're still continuing operations," he said. "We are attempting to limit face to face contact when we can, but we're still out there enforcing the law."
The department will be doing more reports by phone, which isn't ideal.
"It's a change because typically officers are tasked with — I want them making person to person contacts," he said. "We're trying to bring people outside of their homes to get in the open air to reduce potential contamination."
Stanfill said the changes, which include no more ride-alongs, seem standoffish and are difficult for officers and the community.
"It's awkward, very awkward for us," he said.
Stanfill said if businesses are not in compliance with Gov. Kate Brown's orders for social distancing, the police will be leaning on licensing agencies to help.
"It's education and voluntary compliance," he said. "Right now, we're seeing very good compliance. I will say I am impressed with our business community and the people of Madras. They've just been outstanding.
"We're pretty good at taking care of one another," he said. "There's lots of people doing good for their neighbors and their friends and looking out for folks."
As for the public, he said he doesn't want people to panic.
"People need to do social distancing," he said. "I just encourage that people follow the mandate given by the governor and think of others."
He also encouraged people to get their information from the Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control.
"There's a lot of stuff out on the internet that' just absolute nonsense," he said.
Stanfill also said his department is working with JCSO, Oregon State Police, the Jefferson County Health Department and other agencies.
"Everybody's just kind of leaning on each other and being smart," he said.
Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services had some tips for people on whether they should stay home, go see their doctor or call 911.
Chief Michael Lepin said people should stay home if they probably have influenza with no complications or if they were calling with questions about the flu vaccine.
People who have a fever for longer than three days or a fever that returns after going away for 24 hours should call their doctor.
They should reserve calling 911 for the following symptoms:
shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; recurrent vomiting and being unable to keep fluids down
chest pain, which isn't a typical sign of COVID-19
being unable to move or having "profound weakness"
having the flu along with asthma, COPD, emphysema, congestive heart failure, or immunosuppression such as chemotherapy
infectious respiratory symptoms if the person is over 65 years old.
JCEMS is not testing for COVID-19 and shouldn't be called for that, Lepin said.
Jefferson County Fire District No. 1 is working with JCEMS, Deputy Chief Casey Skaar said.
"We assist JCEMS with medical calls, and so we've been working with them on trying to not get as many people involved," he said.
Instead of sending several personnel into a situation with a patient, one lead medic goes in first if their condition isn't life-threatening. That preserves personal protective equipment, which is in short supply, Skaar said.
"Everyone's just kind of limiting their exposure," Skaar said.
After certain calls, JCFD is disinfecting its entire apparatus, including the steering wheel of the vehicle. Then firefighters are leaving the vehicle in the sun to let ultraviolet rays assist, too.
While the district has always cleaned vehicles, it's taking extra steps now.
In the fire station, cleaning has been stepped up, too.
"We are closed to the public, but still, with volunteers coming and going and stuff, we're constantly cleaning," Skaar said.
Volunteers and interns who feel ill are asked to stay home.
"Contaminating the station could hurt us all as a response group," Skaar said.
He's also encouraging volunteers to take care of their bodies, rest, eat well, exercise, "and keep that 6-foot distance if we can."
Skaar said people are making donations and stepping up, and the department is grateful for that.
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