Jackson County, Scottsboro leaders update residents on COVID-19 measures

Northeast Alabama

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. – Leaders with various Jackson County and Scottsboro agencies live-streamed a conference updating residents about what they are doing to keep residents and employees safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The panel discussion was held at the Well Family Worship Center in Scottbsoro Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Robin Shelton said he is following Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Public Health’s recommendations, guidelines, and orders when it comes to leaving various industries like Maples Rugs, Inc. open. He added he does not believe a shelter in place order is necessary at this time.

He explained that an essential business is one that meets the needs of not only the individual, but also commerce as a whole. Shelton told WHNT News 19 that he does not think all commerce should be shut down completely.

Scottsboro City Schools superintendent Jose Reyes, Jr. presented an update on how students will proceed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Reyes said through an academic continuity plan for all of the students except for Seniors. Seniors in good standing at this time will be considered high school graduates, according to Reyes.

The academic continuity plan begins on Tuesday, April 7.

Reyes mentioned they are going to do as many senior activities as they can and plan to release dates for for prom and graduation within the coming days.

The Nourish One Child program with Scottsboro City Schools began delivering food to students Monday afternoon. On the initial day, volunteers delivered bags containing multiple meals to more than 300 children

Bus drivers deliver food each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to various locations. The donations needed to continue and grow the Nourish One Child program can be found here.

Northeast Alabama Health Services, Inc. (NEAHSI) CEO Deborah Culpepper was also in attendance at the press conference. There are seven NEAHSI community health centers; five in Jackson County and two in Dekalb County.

Culpepper said they have close the buildings in the morning hours except for patients with appointments, those who are elderly, or those who are well. The closure also gives the providers the opportunity to call in prescription refills.

She said there are COVID-19 notices posted on exterior doors of the centers. The notices urge patients that if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or believe they may have been exposed, to go back to their vehicle and call a posted phone number for the medical director. Culpepper explained that the medical director is screening calls to let them know if they should be tested.

NEAHSI’s Culpepper said at the end of each day, the staff disinfects the facility and its equipment top to bottom.

The first drive-through COVID-19 screening and testing site was opened on March 28, 2020.

Culpepper said they are utilizing two labs for COVID-19 testing. She explained that the turnaround for results is anywhere from 24 hours to six days depending on the number of test submissions to the labs.

NEAHSI director of clinical services Jennifer Sanders spearheaded the drive-through. She said they will continue as long as they have enough resources to provide it to the community.

Sanders broke down what to expect at the drive-through COVID-19 screening and testing site as follows: Everyone must show photo ID and insurance. If they do not have insurance, they will need to fill out a sliding fee application. A doctor’s order is not required at the NEAHSI site, but a doctor will be there to consult with patients about their symptoms to decide whether they should be tested.

Sanders said people should stay in their vehicle and should not roll down their window. She added there is no restroom available.

Highlands Medical Center CEO John Anderson began by stating that this is an extraordinary time in healthcare.

Anderson discussed the success of his system’s drive-through COVID-19 screening and test site. He said they plan to continue Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. as long as supplies last. A patient does need a doctor order to be tested at this site.

Anderson encouraged residents to keep the safety of caregivers and their families in their prayers. He said if anyone would like to volunteer time or service, to call (256) 218-3782.

Highlands Medical Center Dr. Lonnie Albin followed up by reminding everyone of the importance of hand washing and social distancing.

The turnaround time for COVISD-19 test results through their labs have gone down from the initial seven days when the virus began taking over to the current 36 hours. Hospital officials said that still depends on how inundated the lab is at the time.

Dr. Albin confirmed that four hospital employees tested positive for COVID-19, adding that “at least half” were nurses. The infected employees are now in quarantine.

He added that all employees are told the measure and log their temperatures twice daily and report any symptoms or exposure they may have.

Dr. Albin explained that COVID-19 can be spread through air droplets ranging within three or four feet with a sneeze or heavy cough. He added that person touches their face an average of 50 times an hour, so it’s important for people to not touch their face after touching unclean surfaces.

Jackson County Commission Chairman Tim Guffey stated the courthouse would remain closed to the public until April 20, 2020. He encouraged residents to utilize the county website to fulfill their needs.

Guffey said while the Council on Aging is still providing meals to existing clients, they will begin delivering shelf-stable meals starting April 6. You can find more information on that here.

Scottsboro Police Chief Ralph Dawe said his department is making several modifications amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

Dawe said he is encouraging officers wash their hands as they get in and out of vehicles and the buildings. He also suggests they stand 10 feet apart from each other.

The chief said they are also sanitizing all surfaces including doorknobs, countertops, and keypads each day.

Dawe reported that officers are now doing “field arrests”, where the perpetrator is given a citation in order to keep contact between the outside world and the jail down.

However, Dawe said if someone is arrested and taken into custody, the suspect will be put into a quarantine area and be decontaminated. A nurse will then screen the suspect about any COVID-19 symptoms or exposure they may have had. The nurse will determine if the suspect can be booked and put into the general population of the jail. Dawe said he hopes these measures limit the exposure and spread of COVID-19.

Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus said they are working keep their first responders healthy in many ways, including limiting public access to the fire station. Necklaus said they have also stopped outside training, building inspections, and public education events.

He added that dispatchers have adapted their screening process to try and identify patients who may have COVID-19 symptoms, are carriers, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Necklaus said as new information comes in about COVID-19 symptoms, the screening process evolves.

He added that they are also changing how they approach calls. Neckalus explained that as of right now, only one responder will make initial contact with a patient to evaluate them, as opposed to the usual three or four responders.

Necklaus said based on the current rate of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use, they have enough to get through the next several days. He added that they are working with the Emergency Management Agency, private vendors , and the national stockpile to get more.

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