GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Commissioners voted unanimously Sunday during an emergency meeting in the Gallia 911 Communications Center to declare a state of emergency for Gallia County due to the Ohio COVID-19 outbreak.
The commissioners have declared states of emergency before, especially during extreme incidents of flooding. The declaration allows the county to potentially access state and federal funding in response to crisis situations.
Department heads present were Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin, Gallia Health Commissioner Dr. Gerald Vallee, Gallia 911 and Emergency Management Agency Director Sherry Daines, Gallia Emergency Management Agency Associate Director and Gallia Firefighter’s Association Representative Tim Miller and Gallia EMS Director Keith Wilson.
“At this time, we do not have any positive (COVID-19 cases) in Gallia County,” said Gallia Public Health Official Tyler Schweickart. “They’re (the state) is basically looking at all public gatherings at this point (for restriction), restaurants and bars… At this point we have the vast majority of events taken care of as far as cancellation of those. Churches are still ongoing at this point… We have reached out to other gathering points… The processes that we have right now in public health are still in the containment (phase)… It’s inevitable we’ll be moving to the mitigation side. Our goal at the health department is to make sure we don’t overwhelm our hospital partners. As of right now, the health department’s primary function with this is assisting the hospital to make sure we can take as much off their plate as possible when we’re still in the containment phase.”
Schweickart said that the health department is advising church-goers to avoid handshakes or acts of fellowship that might put them in close contact with individuals potentially carrying COVID-19.
The health department has been screening individuals as much as possible and sending individuals who meet the Center for Disease Control parameters to medical care.
Vallee urged those who think they may have contracted COVID-19 to contact their primary care physicians or call ahead to medical facilities before showing up so as to not surprise and overload healthcare institutions.
“We need to keep communication going and I think down the road as we’ve established our (emergency operations center), we’ll meet daily to discuss as a group,” said Commissioner Harold Montgomery.
“We declare Gallia County in a state of emergency in regard to this COVID-19 virus,” said Montgomery. “The general purpose is for us to stay in front of this and to be working together with our state agencies. As the state and the federal agencies have already declared (a state of emergency), this will allow Gallia to try and draw some resources.”
“As I’ve watched this evolve over the last really four weeks,” said Commissioner David Smith, “my position is or my opinion is, and I hope I’m wrong, it’s only a matter of time before it comes to Gallia County. I wish I could tell you how (the situation) is going to evolve. This is truly a first time event…We live in a world that travels everywhere and we are starting to see what happens there… It’s going to be a challenge to contain this as best we can.”
Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342. © 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.