MIAMI COUNTY — On Wednesday, the Board of Miami County Commissioners discussed the possibility of declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus for Miami County with Miami County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Joel Smith.
“Obviously COVID-19 is the number one priority,” Smith said when discussing his department’s current focus.
Smith said Clark and Champaign counties have both declared a state of emergency without having a confirmed case of the coronavirus appear in those areas yet.
Darke County is the first adjacent county to Miami County to have a confirmed case of the coronavirus. The patient is a man in his 20s who returned home from a trip to Florida on March 9, when he began showing signs of illness and sought medical care. He was tested on March 12, at which point he was placed under isolation and where he will now remain for a minimum of 14 days. As a result of this positive test, the Darke County General Health District declared a public health emergency for the county.
On Wednesday, commissioner Jack Evans said, following the discussion the commissioners had with elected officials and Miami County Public Health, this is most likely “something we’re going to do as well.”
Smith said declaring a state of emergency sends the message the county is taking this situation seriously, along with the message that the county anticipates exceeding its internal resources. He also noted in situations where an area has a state of emergency, unaffected areas send their resources to the affected area. The coronavirus presents an unique challenge as “there is no unaffected area,” Smith said.
The Ohio Department of Health has also issued an order declaring elective surgeries and procedures in Ohio’s hospitals be postponed in an effort to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and first responders. The Ohio Hospital Association has estimated the amount of PPE Ohio will need during the coronavirus pandemic is equal to the amount of PPE available in the nation.
“By postponing elective hospital procedures that are safe to delay, we can protect patients and providers,” said Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday. “This will also help us preserve critically short supplies of PPE and preserve inpatient beds and other equipment for critically ill patients.”
Smith said Miami County EMA is conserving its resources. It has not received donations from outside entities, such as veterinarians or physicians who have postponed non-essential surgeries until after the coronavirus pandemic is over, but EMA has space to accept those donations.
Smith also encouraged county officials to keep track of costs incurred due to the coronavirus as FEMA may be able to offer public assistance reimbursements to state and local governments should they meet certain financial thresholds.
EMA is also working with Ohio United Way to get a 2-1-1 phone service to provide health and social service information underway. Ohio United Way said it would provide the service to any county in Ohio that does not currently have one, Smith said. United Way of Miami County was previously working on developing a 2-1-1 system for Miami County with plans to get it running in the spring of this year. The 2-1-1 service in Ohio is governed by the Ohio Alliance of Information and Referral System.