FAYETTEVILLE — Although Fayette County already has taken a number of procedures inspired by the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, the county commission on Friday declared a state of emergency and existence of a catastrophic health emergency related to COVID-19.
Over the past several days, county officials have taken a number of steps to protect both county employees and the public, but the proclamation will allow the county more ease in dealing with an incredibly fluid situation, Denise Scalph, county commission president, said Friday afternoon.
“Basically with the proclamation, I wanted to set it forth — it may be a document that will be changed — but I wanted to make sure we have it in place now that the federal government and the state government have declared states of emergency,” she said.
The proclamation itself does not call for any major changes that county officials haven’t already put in place, Scalph said, but “to open us up for any kind of money or reimbursement for funds expended to respond to a possible outbreak, you have to have some kind of emergency disaster proclamation in place.
“It’s pretty much the same, because we’ve already been given leniency through the proclamation that the governor did to put up precautions to protect the staff and the public, limiting unnecessary exposure.
“We’re still providing service and we have to do that until the governor tells us otherwise, but we’re just simply asking everyone to please, if it’s business that doesn’t need to be taken care of immediately, to try to hold off, or to try to handle it by calling in or going online.”
Members of the public are urged to call the appropriate office and see if there is an alternative for conducting your business without entering the courthouse. That could include email, fax and regular mail.
Following are department numbers:
• Fayette County Health Department — 304-574-1617
• County commission — 304-574-4290
• Prosecuting attorney — 304-574-4230
• Assessor — 304-574-4242
• County clerk — 304-574-4227
• Floodplain/building permits — 304-574-4320
• County park — 304-574-1111
• Office of emergency management — 304-574-3285
• 911 non-emergency — 304-574-3590
• Sheriff’s department — 304-574-4216
• Tax office — 304-574-4219
• Circuit clerk — 304-574-4213
• Magistrate — 304-574-4279
Stay informed on the latest coronavirus updates by visiting coronavirus.wv.gov.
For emergencies, call 911.
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The proclamation, which went into effect upon adoption, allows the commission to “activate the Fayette County Emergency Operations Plan and implement the operation of the Fayette County Emergency Operations Center for the coordination of information and resources.”
Scalph says she understands that people are frustrated with all the preventive measures being adopted and worried about businesses closing, but that taking precautions now can save lives later.
“What I’m trying to tell people now is, yes, it’s inconvenient. We know. I had to close my shop on Tuesday and my husband had to close his barber shop. We’re feeling the pain.
“We can replace things, though, and we can work in the future for recovery, but we can’t replace people.
“My responsibility and my commitment is that; I can’t do anything about replacing people. That’s my concern, is to keep people healthy,” she said.
“We don’t want an acute spike. Recovering from this type of disaster will happen more rapidly if we try to contain the exposure or an outbreak now.
“We just don’t want a spike of thousands of people getting sick. We’re just all trying to work together and keep West Virginia strong.”
Scalph urges the public to follow CDC guidelines about social distancing and hygiene.
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Kevin Walker, director of the Fayette County Office of Emergency Management, said the county's emergency operations center is currently closed to the public due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. However, the office is operating with normal staff and at usual strength.
Posted on the door of the 911 center are phone numbers listed which individuals can call if they need assistance with an issue. They are as follows:
• To pick up records — 304-574-4949 or 304-574-4953
• To speak to mapping or for address verification — 304-574-4653
• To speak to someone in emergency management — 304-574-3285, opt. 1.
Those numbers and other necessary information can be found on the Facebook page Fayette County Office of Emergency Management.
On that page, the emergency management office stresses for individuals to use trusted sources of information on COVID-19, such as the DHHR website at www.coronavirus.wv.gov or the CDC's website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov.
Walker said Friday he and others, including Fire Coordinator Joe Crist, are currently working to ensure that all emergency responders who could face the risk of being exposed to contamination have the proper protective gear.
Walker said members of an emergency management volunteer task force are poised to go out into the field if necessary to assist other agencies with their response to COVID-19. Members of that task force are fully vetted, including a background check, he said.
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Steve Keenan contributed to this report.