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March 17, 2020: Coronavirus Community Call

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March 17, 2020

Betsy Covington, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee began by thanking everyone for joining the call. She introduced Ben Moser, President and CEO of United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley. She added that both the Community Foundation and United Way are proud to be helping philanthropist in our community maximize effectiveness as we move through this crisis. Betsy added that we are learning and evolving as we serve our communities alongside each of you. The purpose of this daily call is to allow local service providers and other essential partners to disseminate information about local plans, impact and need. She will act as Sergeant of Arms for these calls. Betsy encouraged callers, as leaders to take time to pray, meditate and be good to themselves. She added that practicing self-care, remaining calm and loving each other is important as we move forward. She continued by stating that Ben will take us through the agenda.

Ben Moser began by thanking everyone for joining the call. He then thanked Betsy and the Community Foundation for providing this forum and for leading in our local Crisis Fund development efforts along with United Way. Ben added that this is an important call and encouraged everyone to join the call each day. He stated that if anyone would like to have a designated recognition time to give an update, please email him before 8:00pm the day before the call. He stated that the overarching goal of this call is to provide a forum for community information sharing and to make sure that our vulnerable population is served as best we can during this crisis. Overall, these calls should be fact based, forward looking and positive. In times like these institutions matters, collective wisdom matters, and collective goodwill is of paramount importance so let’s work together and be solution oriented.

Columbus Consolidated Government Update-Mayor Skip Henderson

Mayor Henderson began by thanking United Way and the Community Foundation for this forum. He stated that the city government participates in six calls a week to included federal and state Department of Public Health as well as local stake holders that have certain influence over different areas to include hospitals, homeland security, Department of Public Health, Fort Benning and several surrounding areas. They try to stay on top of the information to understand what is current and what has changed as it is a fluid situation. From a government standpoint they have worked very hard to develop a plan in the event that there is a widespread outbreak in Columbus Georgia, so that they will be able to continue to provide essential services to the public. These are services that lead to the health and welfare of the community. For example, if we have a widespread outbreak and city personnel must stay home, they will suspend the pick-up of recyclables and yard waste and focus just on garbage pickup. They are preparing for any eventuality including the possibility of not having access to prison labor to help accommodate the daily services that they normally provide. They have suspended operations of some of our public facilities to include the Civic Center, our recreation centers our senior centers, tennis courts, golf courses and any places where people are likely to gather in groups of more than 50. They will re-evaluate on April 3, 2020 with the hope that some of this threat will have evaded by that time and they can return to a close to normal operating contingency. As of right now they have not considered restricting private businesses. It is a tool that the city has but hope not to have to use. They will continue to monitor the situation. The city is in daily contact with the Department of Public Health. The biggest challenge right now is being able to understand the information that is being received and being able to disseminate the information about testing. The Mayor forwarded information about this call to Dr. Beverly Townsend, the Director of District Health because he believes that it would be important to have someone from their office on this call to help clarify information about testing. He added that testing is being done in Columbus but there is a protocol that people must meet to qualify for testing. The first step is to contact their family physician. Their physician should be able to direct them to the right place if the test is warranted. Pamela Kirkland of the Columbus Health Department was on the call and stated that she could give an update and answer any questions. The mayor concluded by stating that their focus is on making sure that information received is accurate. The best way to slow the spread of the virus is by making small changes for a short period of time. Take social distancing to heart. We must be united and work together. He stated that he is grateful for this forum. He added that there will be a press conference this evening at 4: 00pm with all the healthcare agencies including Fort Benning and more details from Dr. Townsend concerning testing.

Muscogee County School District Update-Dr. David Lewis

Dr. Lewis began by stating that they have been working on a comprehensive plan for the school district for a few weeks now. As we all know the decision was made to close all Muscogee County Schools effective last Saturday and the Governor gave a statewide edict yesterday. They have developed digital and hard copy resources for students to allow instruction to continue for the next two weeks and beyond that if necessary. Teachers are still on duty working their normal hours and office hours to help students via phone and email from 9-11am and 1-3pm if necessary. They are not opening for non-essential business, but the Macon Road office and all schools are being staffed for the time being. All hourly workers, teachers and certified personnel will be compensated during this time. Payroll will proceed as scheduled. Students will receive report cards when they return to school. The state Superintendent recommended that the state board of education suspend all state mandated testing for the remainder of the year.  Pre-K registration is going forward online and services are being provided for special needs students. A food plan is in place to feed all students in the community from 11:30am-12:30pm each day. This information has been sent out to parents and is on the MCSD website. These meals are to go in all locations. Some locations students can come and pick up and meals are delivered by bus in other locations. Location information can also be found on the website. Schools and buses are being deep cleaned. Helplines have been set up for teachers and parents for technical support. Spectrum is offering free internet for 60 days for parents and students who don’t already. Dr. Lewis thanked Columbus for their tremendous support. He added that all info is on the MCSD website and that there are also resources to help students cope. This is new to all of us.

Columbus Health Department Update-Pam Kirkland

Pam began by stating that as of right now there are no cases in the 16 counties of the West Central Health District. Right now, the local health department is not testing for the virus. They will start testing in a drive thru capacity this week when the supplies come in. They have established a toll-free number for information in our area: 1-855-962-0955. Pam reminded everyone that the elderly and people with chronic conditions are at increased risk of for the virus. She stressed social distancing. The best prevention is to wash hands with soap and water and use hand sanitizer if soap is not available. Avoid touch eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid sick people and stay home if you are sick. Cover cough and sneeze with tissue and throw tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly. If you have traveled to any of the outbreak areas or have had contact with anyone who has tested positive and you develop a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, stay home and contact your doctor. Doctors have information from the Department of Public Health to assess if testing is needed. If an individual does not have a doctor or insurance, they can call the health department. They will assess symptoms and situations and proceed from there.

Ben stated that Governor Brian Kemp has created several new committees to address the Coronavirus in Georgia. One of which is the Homeless and Displaced Persons Committee. Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms is chair of this committee. We are fortunate to have Pat Frey, Executive Director of Home for Good, a United Way Program on the line. Pat has just been named to serve on this committee.

Home for Good Update-Pat Frey

Pat began by stating that she started talks last week about how to prepare for an emergency and how to best help our vulnerable population. There are agencies and providers coming to together on calls discussing how to come up with protocols. UWCV staff got together virtually to discuss messaging. The biggest concern is encampments and those living on the streets. Coordinated Entry System will be used as a starting point to know here people are congregating and spending the night. There is also GPS capability. However, HIPPA protocol would need to be followed. The Governor’s task force meeting call today at 4pm. Will have more of an update tomorrow

Crisis Fund Update-Betsy Covington

As of late yesterday afternoon, our two organizations have rolled out the Coronavirus Response Fund to give people, businesses and other foundations in our community a way to positively respond to the crisis. It has already been shared a record number of times on Facebook. There are a lot of interest and people are still trying to decide how they will respond to this crisis. The fund will be used to make grants to organizations and non- profits that service our most vulnerable populations. The thought of this call came out of our conversations of how we as community organizations do research to find out who needs help and how. Our hope is that those callers who represent front line organizations will stay on the calls. As the fund grows, grants will be made as soon as possible. The fund is hosted by the Community Foundation in partnership with United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley. The Community Foundation is waving all administrative fees that they normally charge. Donations can be made online on the Community Foundation home page or the United Way home page.  Guidelines for the fund can be found there as well. You can even text to give. The Community Foundation and United Way partner well and both exist to serve the community. Please email Betsy or Ben with any questions.

National Update-Ben Moser

Ben began by stating that this is Day 5 of the National Emergency. No one heard of the Coronavirus on New Year’s Day. This is all very new and everything is moving extremely rapidly. Per the Centers of Disease Control there are likely to be many more new cases of in the days and weeks ahead. CDC expects a widespread transmission of the virus in the United States. They believe that most of the population will be exposed to the virus. Ben added that this is a sobering thought. We are in the beginning of the acceleration phase which could last a month or two.

Open Door Community House Update-Kim Jenkins

Kim begin by stating that she is very excited to know who is doing what. Open Door has suspended their senior program in person but are keeping in touch with their seniors via wellness phone calls and running errands for them. Thanks to Feeding the Valley they are providing food for them. They are reaching out to students who would normally attend the after-school program to offer food and homework assistance. She was to here from Dr. Lewis that teachers are available, and she will call local schools where their students attend to see how they can partner in that way. They are continuing to serve the homeless in modified ways to reduce the number of people that are in a space at one time. They will continue to take referrals and house people. The culinary arts program is on hold for now. They are just trying stay on top of how-to best help starting with food.

Pat Frey asked if the showering program was still in operation. Kim answered that it is with a maximum of 10 people in the building at one time.

Feeding the Valley Update-Frank Sheppard

Frank stated that business is as usual. They are cutting hours a little. They will be open Monday thru Thursday until 4pm. Partner Agency orders are still being filled online. The Mobile Pantry will continue as planned. They are not accepting walkups at the mobile pantry to limit contact, but they will accept drive-up and put food in their trunks. Kids Café is slightly limited due to school closings, so it is good to hear that the school district is feeding children once a day. He is looking for other opportunities to help. He concluded by stating that if anyone is in need to let them know.

211 Update-Candace Poole

Candace stated that 211 is updating services especially the school feeding program, Coronavirus testing information and people wanting to help others during this crisis. If agencies have any changes specifically to intake procedures. Please let her know. Clients can also text 898211 for help.

Safehouse Update-Neil Richardson

Neil stated that they continue to function under a normal schedule. Breakfast and lunch are served every day. Their focus has been on extra cleaning and working with clients on personal hygiene. More at risk clients are coming in with questions. The Piedmont Mobile Unit and MercyMed are there as a direct link. They also have a digital thermometer to assess people quickly. They are just paying attention. If this virus continues, they may have to set up two sections at Safehouse. One would be specifically for people that are symptomatic. They do have spacing for that.

Salvation Army Update-Josh Hinton

Josh stated that the After-School Program is closed. Staff is doing deep cleaning. Social Services is operating as normal and packing extra food boxes for those that may be in need. The Community Meals program is now serving all meals to go.

Candace asked if the after-school program followed MCSD.

Josh replied yes.

MercyMed Update-Billy Holbrook

Billy stated that it is business as usual at both locations. Obviously, Fox Elementary location is closed. They are partnering with the health department for specimen collection for testing. If a person is referred by their doctor or the health department after meeting CDC guidelines, they can call MercyMed make an appointment and come in for a drive thru screening. The specimen is then sent to a lab. They have limited test kits, but they can order up to 25 a day if needed at this point. Quest.

Kara-asked about turn around for test results

Billy answered 48-72 hours

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