Carter government department heads talk COVID-19 response

John Thompson • Mar 11, 2020 at 8:43 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Carter County government department heads met with Mayor Rusty Barnett on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the county’s response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

The department heads discussed a wide range of topics that COVID-19 is effecting, from sick leave policy, maintaining a healthy workplace while still conducting business with the public, dealing with letters and cash that could be contaminated and procedures to follow in county government areas that bring together large numbers of people, such as schools and the jail.

The discussion was led by Chad R. Bruckman, emergency response coordinator, emergency preparedness of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office.

Bruckman said the biggest concern with COVID-19 is that there is so much unknown about the virus, which has only been studied since December. Because knowledge of COVID-19 is so limited, experts must answer many questions about it with the unsatisfactory “I don’t know.”

That includes any long-term effect the virus might have on the body or what effect it might have on a woman who is pregnant and her child. He said the few cases of a pregnant woman being infected have not shown an impact on the baby.

As far as maintaining high standards of hygiene, he said to treat COVID-19 in the same manner as an outbreak of the flu. He said this has been a bad year for flu and the same hygiene standards will work for both flu and COVID-19.

He mentioned the run on cleaning supplies and other hygiene products at the local Walmart and saw that as a positive. “I wish we could get such a response from a flu epidemic,” Bruckman said.

Bruckman said one of the most important acts of personal physical hygiene is to wash hands. He said soap and water should be used whenever your hands have been in contact with public surfaces. That is why it is important to keep such surfaces clean. He said the virus is spread from droplets rather than airborne.

In addition to washing hands, another important personal hygiene technique is not to touch such sensitive areas as your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.

The department heads were interested in addressing the sick days policy and making sure that employees who did contract COVID-19 meet the proper standards before returning to work.

That question and many others involving office procedures were discussed. Patty Woodby of the Circuit Court Clerk’s office suggested the matter should be discussed at the committee level during the next month and recommendations brought to the County Commission.

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