Hospital has appropriate bed space, supplies as supervisors approve state of emergency

By Brandon Martin

Sovah Health is prepared in its ability to handle an influx of patients suffering from COVID-19 at this time, according its marketing and communications director.

Sovah is “confident in our ability to evaluate, manage and treat patients who may have COVID-19,” Kelly Fitzgerald wrote in a statement. “At this time, we do have appropriate bed space and supplies to handle an influx of patients; however, our team is working around the clock to build upon our emergency operations plan so we are prepared for the future.”

Fitzgerald added that the hospital is continuing to “evaluate and test appropriate patients that meet VDH (Virginia Department of Health) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) criteria. We are in the process of adding additional information to our website about testing, so we encourage the public to keep checking our website and Facebook page for these updates.”

The update on the hospital’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak came on the same day as the Henry County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion to affirm the local State of Emergency declared by County Administrator Tim Hall on March 16.

The governing body is required to vote on authorization of the action at their next scheduled meeting following the declaration, or at a special meeting within 14 days of the declaration.

The motion by Jim Bryant, supervisor for the Collinsville district, carried following a second by Tommy Slaughter, supervisor for Reed Creek.

Hall and Ridgeway Supervisor Ryan Zehr advised residents to be careful where they get their information regarding the coronavirus, COVID-19.

“Do not believe everything that you hear just because you hear it,” Hall said before directing residents to sources like the Centers for Disease Control website and the Martinsville-Henry County joint webpage for guidance.

Hall said that while there hasn’t been a positive case in Henry County yet, the county is already scoping out locations to set up drive-thru testing sites. He added that those visiting the sites would have to be referred by a physician.

COVID-19 will also force the county to make adjustments to the budget that will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on April 7.

In response to many services switching to drive-thru or online, Hall said the Public Service Authority will waive transaction fees for online payments this year.

Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Administrative Services David Scott provided updates to matters concerning the closure of schools in the state.

“Our top priority is continuing to feed our students,” he said, and explained that students receive four meals when deliveries take place–a hot and cold meal for both breakfast and lunch.

According to Scott, the schools are “looking for ways to continue paying everyone on the payroll.”

He said that schools still have the obligation to continue providing education to students which has been particularly challenging for some special-needs students.

“This is not a day off for teachers,” Hall said. “They are continuing to educate. I think we need to say ‘thank you’ to our teachers.”

He also noted that teachers are tackling the situation by continually posting online lessons and personal letters to students.

Based on guidance from the Virginia Department of Education, Scott said that students will be graduating this year, but a commencement ceremony will not take place.

Hall said that the community is rallying in response to needs presented because of COVID-19.

For instance, Hall said that Solid Stone Fabric has switched all normal productions to manufacture gowns and facemasks to local healthcare providers.

In other matters, supervisors:

*Appropriated $20,000 in grant funds from the Harvest Foundation and awarded a contract to Southwestern Virginia Gas Company for engineering services that will provide a preliminary engineering report for extending natural gas utilities to Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre.

*Awarded a contract to Vision Government Solutions, Inc. for maintenance and support fees of the software used by the Assessor’s Office for collecting and managing real estate assessment

Data. The price for the first year of the agreement is $20,730 and it will increase 3 percent annually for the second and third years.

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