The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jun. 3, 2020

CERT ready to aid county during shutdown

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

With most Ohioans ordered to stay at home by Governor Mike DeWine and his administration, the Van Wert County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT held a practice drill Sunday afternoon on a plan to assist residents with a variety of needs and questions.

The good news, to those who might need it most, was the drill went pretty well for a first attempt.

CERT volunteers test out a call center at the Van Wert County Emergency Management offices on Lincoln Highway on Sunday afternoon. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

County EMA Director Rick McCoy said the call center idea came from conversations he had with local government officials and medical providers about what kinds of things would be needed if people were ordered to stay at home.

“We’re going to have more and more folks with questions; more anxiety in the community on ‘what should I be doing?; if this happens, how do I get help?,” McCoy said. “There’s probably going to be a lot of people that are not going to go out. Period.”

McCoy said he feels those served by the CERT call center would be pregnant women and families with young children, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions.

The central feature of the plan is establishment of a call center that will act as a clearinghouse for coronavirus-related information, as well as requests for assistance from the people most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. 

“The goal here is, if people in the community need our services, we’re there to help them,” McCoy said, adding the call center would likely be set up some time this week, as the need for it increases.

“Right now, the call volume to law enforcement, fire, and EMS is very low,” the EMA director noted, but also added he feels calls will go up significantly with Governor DeWine’s “stay at home” order — especially if COVID-19 cases are confirmed here in Van Wert County.

In addition to answering questions and steering people to the proper agency resources, the call center would also take requests for assistance from the 24 CERT volunteers. The call center would have set hours, McCoy noted, to provide time off for volunteers as well.

If a senior citizen, a family with young children, or those with underlying health conditions need critical items they can call the call center and make arrangements for them to be delivered.

McCoy said he is currently working with the local Walmart store, since it’s the only local store he knows of that has an online shopping system, to provide deliveries of necessities: distilled water, non-prescription medicine, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, milk, formula, baby food, and other needed items.

Those needing items can download the Walmart delivery app on their smart phones, pay by credit card or PayPal, and then work with CERT to have the items delivered to them. McCoy said CERT members would not be handling money. He also stressed that CERT was not going to replace other delivery options for most grocery items.

“Now, it’s not all your groceries, but the important essentials,” McCoy said of what CERT would deliver.

Those who need prescription drugs would also have to make other arrangements, he noted, since CERT will not pick up prescription drugs.

In addition to making deliveries of essential items, CERT members are also handling traffic control for Van Wert City Schools’ “grab and go” meal deliveries at the S.F. Goedde Building, with McCoy noting that he felt local police have enough to deal with already.

McCoy said he is concerned about the lack of cooperation he has seen by members of the community that are at low risk for serious problems with the COVID-19 virus. Noting that, while those people may not become seriously ill with the virus, they could become carriers of the disease and infect people they come in contact with, who then may get very sick — and even die.

For his part, the EMA director said his agency and local health officials have been preparing for something like this for years: through recent Ebola, H1N1 virus, MERS, and SARS outbreaks.

POSTED: 03/22/20 at 10:59 pm. FILED UNDER: News