By Nathan Ham
The Town of Boone announced this morning that it is canceling several upcoming events and all the upcoming town meetings through April 13.
“We had meetings this morning on how we might handle some of the crises that come up. I was impressed with the thought and general direction that we seem to be going as a town and I’m pleased that we are trying to get ahead of this so that we’re not caught off guard,” said Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz. “It’s better to be prepared than not.”
The discussion started after Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency earlier in the week and then it was announced that Appalachian State University would be extending its spring break.
“I think it is better, given what little we know about this virus and how dangerous it seems to be, that the town has taken initiative to get ahead of this. People are concerned and I think rightfully so. Police, fire and other agencies have been thinking of how to respond,” said Mayor Brantz.
Boone Town Manager John Ward said that this felt like planning for the unknown, but that the town is coming up with the best plans that it can.
“What this does is allows the town staff to focus their efforts on preparation and response. We are working on implementing our policies for exposure at work as well as emergency response and initiating some telecommute work policies,” Ward said. “We are providing support to the hospital and health department as needed”
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System has been working with multiple state and local agencies (CDC, NCDHHS, Emergency Management, AppHealthCare, Toe River Health Department, Watauga County and Avery County) to implement safe policies to protect the community, should a case of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus appear in the High Country.
“We are developing a very specific plan to ensure that people that are suspected of having it would receive a screening — and if necessary, receive testing in a place that is convenient and safe,” said Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.
Hudspeth says that ARHS is giving a great amount of attention to how they plan on responding to any issues that might arise from the virus locally.
“There is a lot of great work being done on so many fronts. Every process involved in healthcare delivery — from sanitation, infection control, care quality, hospitality services, supply chain, operations, staffing and communication, for example — is being evaluated in order to appropriately respond to COVID-19.”
“We will continue to keep the community informed as changes occur,” said Hudspeth.