With the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak happening in the United States, Franklin and Simpson County officials are working to ensure the safety and protection of residents.

“We still at this point do not have any documented cases in Simpson County or in the BRADD region — the way things are going, I feel it is just a matter of time,” said Simpson County Emergency Management Director Robert Palmer.

The main recommendation to slow the spread of the virus is through social distancing and washing hands. “The fact that social distancing seems to be the key because of the inability to test for these things,” Palmer said. “This is all about the overwhelming medical resources that we have, if we take the spike that is predicted like what happened overseas, our resources can’t handle that.”

He said he hopes people understand that the virus is not a death sentence to anyone upfront. The people who have a higher risk of catching the virus are the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

“The message I am trying to get out is stay calm, there is no reason to be panicking,” Palmer said. “Instead of all of this peaking at one point it needs to progress over a few weeks so that we don’t overwhelm the medical system.”

He suggests people continue their routines regardless of the virus. For instance, if people normally go grocery shopping once a week he suggests continuing that routine. As emergency management director, he is asking people to limit time exposure with other people as much as possible.

“No one is saying you can’t go out and get something if you need it, so stock piling two years worth of toilet paper is not necessary,” Palmer said. “Right now just continue your day-to-day activity.”

Palmer added that the federal, state and local governments know they are asking a lot of people, and that the government is working on ways to protect employment.

“The recommendations coming down are lessons learned from other countries that have not had a good outcome with [the virus situation],” Palmer said.

COVID-19 symptoms to look for include fever, runny nose and shortness of breath since the infection is a respiratory virus.

Palmer added that he recommends that individuals avoid rushing to the emergency room upon feeling ill. He suggests to first call a local doctor, who will then screen the situation over the phone to determine if treatment is necessary. However, Palmer said if a situation is severe or an emergency, individuals are encouraged call 911.

Recently, several local community members, including Palmer, have come together to form the Simpson County COVID-19 Preparedness Coalition to figure out the best approach to helping Simpson County during this time.

“This situation is probably, obviously unprecedented and there is no path on how to handle it,” said Simpson County Judge Executive Mason Barnes.

He said they are working out a plan of action on how to proceed, but the problem is they don’t know what to expect or how to get head of the virus at this time.

“[The situation] is something that is changing minute-by-minute,” City of Franklin Manager Kenton Powell said.

To keep up to date on Coronavirus information signup for AlertSense, a free Simpson County emergency alert system, on the Simpson County Emergency Management website, or follow the Simpson County Office of Emergency Management Facebook page.

To keep updated on the Simpson County COVID-19 Preparedness Coalition, follow either of the Simpson County Office of Emergency Management, City of Franklin or Mason Barnes Facebook pages.

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