While Sherwood's Emergency Operations Center traditionally has been run out of the Sherwood Police Department's Community Room, preparing for the potential fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has moved most of its participants to virtual locations.
"Almost all of us are working remotely now … through Microsoft Teams," said Kristen Switzer, Sherwood community services director, who also is public information officer for the Emergency Operations Center, commonly referred to as the EOC. "We activated the EOC on the 13th (of March) … and that was the same day we declared a state of emergency."
Sherwood was early to the game in declaring an emergency — giving the city more options when it comes to more effectively helping stop the spread of COVID-19 — with Switzer saying one of the things the city was focused on was making sure the city's senior citizens were well taken care of. On March 13, the city announced plans to shut down the library, senior center and arts center.
While EOC participants initially met remotely twice per day, they cut back to once per day on Monday, she said, noting that they last anywhere from one to two hours.
"We go through each department and talk about what the impact has been and how staff's responding, what our needs are," said Switzer, noting that about 14 individuals participate in the daily calls — everyone from public works officials to the city's attorney to the city's recently hired emergency management coordinator, Andrew Chapman.
Switzer said the physical EOC started with a few laptops and with personal distancing themselves six feet apart once the protocol of social distancing was mandated.
As of Monday, March 23, Switzer said that everything in the city is pretty much shut down except for park trails.
While there have been reports of some teens still congregating at some parks, Switzer said public works employees had started to place yellow caution tape on playgrounds to make it more clear the areas are shut down.
"I think for the most part people are doing their best and trying to comply (with group situations) and if you watch the Sherwood Facebook post, there's some self-policing there that's going on or community policing where people are trying to hold each other accountable," she said.
Sherwood officials are trying to make sure the city's senior citizens continue to receive daily meals, now that the senior center is shuttered.
"There's some people who come to the senior center just for the meals and that could be the only meal they receive the entire day, and they're really dependent upon it so. So that's the one area that we've modified what we're doing and we're actually delivering meals to people," Switzer said.
She said senior citizens can call the city and get on a list where they can pick up "to-go" meals at the center, or they can have them delivered. She said the city-owned senior center is feeding an average of 18 people each day. At the same time, there are seniors who have just discovered the meal program, some who told her they didn't have groceries and didn't "know how I was going to make sure I was eating."
Switzer said the city has even reassigned staff, taking employees from some shut-down city facilities and having them deliver meals.
"It's comforting for the seniors to see a familiar face even if it's 6 feet away and it just gives us an opportunity to just check in on them," she said.
Meanwhile, Sherwood Police Chief Jeff Groth, who serves as incident commander for the EOC, said that although dealing with a pandemic has proved challenging, the EOC is "running smoothly and efficiently."
"We have focused on keeping all staff and the community healthy and well and maintaining a high level of communication with the community," Groth said. "Given the circumstances I think we have done a great job."
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