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White County Covid-19 Update 3-18-20 with White County EMA Director Patrick Scates

White County EMA Director Patrick Scates says he’s in contact daily with Egyptian Health Department and other authorities within White County regarding the possibility of Covid-19 cases locally.  While to the best of our knowledge we have had no citizens tested, we do know it’s possible it’s already in the area.  According to a Courier-Press report, leaders from both Deaconess and Evansville Mayor Winnecke both apparently believe the virus is in the area undetected.  We know that in Fairfield, at least 3 individuals were tested Tuesday but results will take days.  Hamilton Memorial Hospital authorities declined to tell us whether they’ve administered any tests or even if they have tests on hand, instead directing us to the health department.  We talked briefly to Angie Hampton, CEO of Egyptian Health Department who said they were releasing information on their facebook page.  In an interview Monday with Carmi Mayor Jeff Pollard, Carmi Police Chief Jason Carter, and White County Sheriff Doug Maier, all 3 claimed they felt it was most likely being blown out of proportion.  Since then, the White County courthouse has been closed, the light and water office has been shuttered to the public, and along with other steps being taken, law enforcement lobbies have been closed.

Ferrell Hospital’s Clinic near Wal-Mart has set up a white tent outside.  A spokesperson for them confirmed to us that it’s not a Covid-19 triage center, instead saying that the hospital has the means to test people and individuals would be sent to the actual hospital in Eldorado if need be.  She said the tent was set up to screen patients who may be infected prior to them entering the facility.  The clinic can also provide testing for Flu, strep, and RSV in the tent to assist in compliance with social distancing recommendations and in an open air atmosphere to help protect patients from any unknown contamination.  WROY/WRUL is scheduling a visit with Ferrell’s Infectious Disease Director and will bring folks that interview and additional information in the coming hours/day.

Scates says that he’s acting more in a support role for the health department, but says that as of now there’s no plan to enact any kind of command center.  “There’s no plan to set up a command center right now.  At the end of the day, if we end up with cases, the health department is who is going to be pushing the directive for what we need to be doing; I mean they’re the experts in the field.  EMA will be there to support what the health department is wanting to do.”

As is right now, law enforcement and EMT’s don’t have proper gear to deal with an outbreak without putting themselves at risk.  Scates adds, “They contacted me to see what EMA could do about providing Personal Protective Equipment such as gowns, gloves, masks for first responders, so we did put in a request for PPE for them but I don’t know when we’re gonna see that.  The request is in, but we don’t know when we’re gonna see that yet.”

Scates says the best thing people can do right now is follow the guidelines set up by the CDC and Public Health agencies and to stay tuned for updates and he’s convinced that should the need arise, the entities who need to be ahead of the curve are.  “We are meeting and gathering information and if/when it does present itself, we’ll be prepared.”

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