April 6, 2020 Battle Creek, MI (AMN) – Calhoun County’s Joint Operations Center (JOC) will release Joint Information Center (JIC) briefings via email every Monday and Friday, as well as hold a live presentation mid-day Wednesdays. Monday’s briefing will include the Calhoun County Public Health Department’s semi-weekly media update, as well as updates from other JOC workgroups and local elected officials.
Calhoun County Public Health Department — COVID-19 Semi-Weekly Media Update:As of April 6, 2020, at 12:45 PM, Calhoun County has a cumulative total of 41 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to the Calhoun County Public Health Department (CCPHD).
Masks and Community Spread of COVID-19 COVID-19 is community spread in Michigan. We as a community need to respond by acting as if each one of us is infected with COVID-19, and take appropriate steps to prevent us from spreading it to others. Updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now includes wearing cloth face coverings whenever you must go out to public places (such as grocery stores and pharmacies) where social distancing measures may be difficult to maintain.
This measure is to slow the spread of the virus by preventing people who may be carrying COVID-19 without symptoms from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings can be fashioned simply from household items or made at home such as t-shirts or bandanas.
Cloth Face Covering Advice
- Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- The recommendation for the general public to utilize cloth face coverings is NOT a recommendation to use surgical masks or N-95 respirators. These are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care and first responders as recommended by current CDC guidance.
- Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly; a washing machine will suffice for safely sterilizing/cleaning.
- Upon returning home and removing your cloth face covering, take care not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash your hands immediately after.
- More information on cloth face coverings, including information on creating effective coverings (sew and no-sew instructions both available) can be found on the CDC website.
COVID-19 Contact InvestigationsWhile the frontline response continues in our hospitals and health care facilities, behind the scenes CCPHD staff continues the intricate work of tracking and stopping the spread of COVID-19. CCPHD has assembled an expanded team of public health professionals to investigate new cases of COVID-19. The team quickly tracks down people who might have been exposed so they can take appropriate precautions to manage their health. CCPHD’s case investigation and contact tracing teams are made up of professional staff who are working seven days a week (most days 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and beyond).
CCPHD is notified of all positive COVID-19 testing results through Michigan’s online disease tracking system. From there, the communicable disease team reaches out by phone to the patient or the patient’s family to learn more about who they have been in close contact with. Staff contacts each of those individuals to warn them of exposure and to provide instructions regarding quarantine. Sometimes people with COVID-19 may be an essential worker and inadvertently exposed others when they didn’t yet know they are sick.
Health Officer Eric Pessell said, “We know how frustrating it is for people who don’t yet feel sick to stay home. But because this disease is so contagious and so much is still unknown, stopping the chain of transmission is vital for keeping people safe.”
It is important for CCPHD to emphasize that if you are contacted by a health department representative regarding a COVID-19 exposure, you will not be asked for personal data like social security numbers or banking information. What we want is to find out contact information – usually names and phone numbers of people you may have interacted with. Daily health updates may also be requested from patients who have tested positive so we can best support your recovery.
Employees and EmployersDuring a contact investigation, CCPHD staff will ask about your work history including where you work, what your recent shift schedule looked like, the working conditions (how close you work to others and what you’re doing), and who the people are that you work closely with. Throughout the investigation, we will work with you to ensure your information is kept confidential. CCPHD will ask for the name of your supervisor or manager, and we will instruct you to notify them of your positive status as soon as possible and provide you with additional contact information for you to share so your employers can follow up with CCPHD.
Unless there is a public heath reason for disclosure, State Law prohibits the disclosure of any information obtained by the CCPHD during the course of an infectious disease investigation, other than the reporting of countywide statistical information, whether or not that disclosure identifies a specific person or diagnosis. Likewise, the Federal HIPAA Privacy Rule prohibits the release of Protected Health Information that directly, or indirectly, identifies a specific patient’s identity or diagnosis. This rule has not been altered or relaxed during the COVID-19 epidemic. CCPHD works within these parameters while working to make sure anyone who might reasonably have come in contact with an affected employee will be fully informed. Because of confidentiality requirements, we will work with concerned employers to provide guidance while ensuring the name of the person is not revealed but as much information as possible about assignments and movements is shared.
Update from the Joint Operations Center and the Unified Command Team:Calhoun County Administrator/Controller Kelli Scott began the Monday morning Joint Operations Center briefing by reminding participants of warnings coming from the country’s COVID-19 task force: This week could be challenging for the United States as we face unprecedented challenges from this outbreak. Scott encouraged everyone on the call to take care of themselves as necessary during this time.
Goals and objectives for the JOC this week include,
- Continue work within the Vulnerable Populations and Isolation & Quarantine workgroups
- Continue to obtain PPE locally
- Prepare messaging for faith-based community, especially with Easter upcoming
- Prepare remarks for Access Vision presentation on Thursday
Regarding FOIA exceptions: On Sunday, Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-38, which relaxes the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, to ensure the public has access to information, while also balancing staff safety during the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-home order. Read the executive order.
Under the new order, a public body must respond to a FOIA request within 10 business days – this is an extension of the typical five days. At this time, the order applies to all FOIA requests received through June 4, 2020.
At the City of Battle Creek, if a FOIA request requires a staff member to do a physical search for records, staff will defer it until the state disaster declaration is lifted. If this is the case, staff will communicate with the person who filed the request. That person may then amend their request to include only electronic records.
You can submit a FOIA request to the City of Battle Creek with an online form at battlecreekmi.gov/508/FOIA, fax 269-966-3555, email email@example.com, or mail to City of Battle Creek Clerk’s Office, 10 N. Division St., Room 111, Battle Creek, MI 49014. More information is available at the FOIA website.
Calhoun County FOIA request processing will continue among many departments countywide. Some extensions permitted by the Executive Order will be utilized, especially with mailed-in FOIA requests. The FOIA Coordinator will communicate extensions or changes with all the requesters. To submit a FOIA request, please visit the County’s FOIA page.
From the Business Workgroup: The Business Workgroup continues to provide assistance and guidance to local businesses to ensure access to relief funding and provide awareness/resources where necessary. Approximately $122,000 in MEDC funding was awarded to 16 businesses in our region.
Health Officer Eric Pessell from the Calhoun County Public Health Department is speaking with local business leaders to answer specific questions and provide an update tomorrow, Tuesday, April 7.
The Business Workgroup, with JOC leaders, is also assisting with identifying local needs for PPE and other equipment, to provide businesses with quantity and specifications to produce this needed equipment in our community.
Karla Fales from the Vulnerable Populations Workgroup reports: Referrals for individuals in the community needing groceries, cleaning supplies, hygiene items, prescription delivery, and other basic necessities can be made by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 269-441-0930. There is a network of at least six local groups throughout Calhoun County who are vetted and obtaining and delivering needed items. CareWell Services is coordinating directly with Public Health Department and the JOC. Intake is required to identify needs, and then Careless source and assigns that need to one of the groups that has been identified, as well as referrals to Food Bank, Community Action, home delivered meals, etc. This service is available for anyone, not just local seniors.
Recent press release from Senator John Bizon:Sen. John Bizon, M.D. and other medical professionals in Michigan have joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in advising that everyone wear face coverings in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It is better to be cautious and cover your nose and mouth with a non-synthetic cloth material, like cotton fabric, than going out without anything covering your face,” said Bizon, R-Battle Creek. “This practice would at least offer some protection against infection and unknowingly spreading the virus if you are asymptomatic.”