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Coronavirus Updates: Face Masks Guidance, Police and Fire Updated Procedures, Community Organizations Active in Disaster Needs

Coronavirus Updates: Face Masks Guidance, Police and Fire Updated Procedures, Community Organizations Active in Disaster Needs

April 6, 2020 

Media Contact: 

Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412  

 

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued new guidance on cloth face coverings and now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain such as grocery stores and pharmacies. Since many people infected with the coronavirus have few or no symptoms, this is a step to help prevent those people from transmitting the virus to others. It is not a measure to protect you from catching the virus. 

“Since the outbreak of this pandemic, many residents want to know how they can help, and this is an important action,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “Wearing a face-covering in public, along with continued social distancing, is how we can flatten the curve and slow the spread of the COVID-19. While the CDC recommendation is voluntary, the Howard County Health Department is strongly recommending that residents wear a face covering when around others.” 

Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used. Click to view instructions on how to make them at home and how to wear them.  

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. If you are making cloth face coverings and have extras, it is encouraged that you to reach out and offer them to friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors.  

Howard County Government has extended the reduction of County Government operations to core functions until further notice. On March 26, the reduction of core functions was put into place until April 10th.  

Howard County Police Department has implemented additional standard operating procedures to staff to limit contact and the spread of COVID-19. 

“At the police department, we are fully staffed to protect and serve the residents of Howard County,” said Police Chief Lisa Myers. “We continue to respond to all emergencies 24 hours a day, so we need to take every possible precaution to protect our officers and the public. These measures are critical to limit virus exposure and keep everyone as safe as possible.” 

The protocols for staff include: 

Appropriate PPE for Potential Virus Protection  

  • N-95 Mask: worn if responding to a PUI (person under investigation) or confirmed case of COVID-19  
  • Surgical Mask: worn by officers if there is general close contact less than 6 ft. during any arrest or other interaction with a non-PUI; in a PUI or confirmed COVID-19 case, surgical mask can be provided to the patient, officer wears N-95 
  • Disposable Gloves and Gown: worn as needed with any PPE 
  • Eye Protection: worn in conjunction with the N-95; face shield and safety goggles 

Avoiding Contamination 

·       Leave your home in plain clothes and dress in clean uniform at work 

·       Place clean, non-work clothes in plastic bag and store in locker or similar to avoid contamination 

·       Keep a full spare uniform in your vehicle or duty station in case you are exposed. Decontaminate and change into the clean uniform as soon as possible. 

·       End of shift, place work clothing in separate plastic bag, wash uniform in warmest appropriate water and dispose of bag 

        Shower before leaving the station, dress in clean non-work clothes, remove shoes at home 

In a Police Facility 

  • Use hand sanitizer at entrance on every entry 
  • Take temperature on first entry to the building 
  • If temperature is over 100.0 degrees F, leave immediately and contact supervisor 
  • No in-person briefings/roll calls 
  • No congregating at police satellite offices beyond need for essential police business 

Safety Guidance for General Calls for Service 

  • Wash hands and sanitize equipment after each call 
  • Wear mask on medical calls if less than 6 feet from any patient  
  • Encourage reporting by phone or online 
  • Use single HCPD transport van per shift for all arrests, not patrol cars 

Safety Guidance When Responding to a PUI or COVID-19 Call 

  • Close contact within 6 feet of a PUI or confirmed COVID-19 patient, wear N-95 mask and other PPE. 
  • Limit the number of HCPD members within 6 ft. of patient. 

Reports of Possible Executive Order Violations 

  • Determine whether the call is for a large gathering, business or stay-at-home violation 
  • Identify what was observed upon officer arrival and how it was resolved 
  • Confirm whether it was a violation or not a violation (Note: there have been very few actual violations; all resolved through voluntary compliance) 

Handling a Violation of the Executive Orders 

  • Voluntary compliance should be obtained whenever possible.  
  • A charge for an EO violation must be approved by a commander and is considered a last resort.  

Howard County Department of Fire & Rescue Services (HDFRS) has implemented additional measures to protect employees. 

“Our mission is to limit the spread of this virus while maintaining a high functioning emergency response system,” said Acting Fire Chief William Anuszewski. “We’re taking all the necessary precautions to ensure our responders are protected while serving and protecting the community.”    

These measures include: 

  •  Emergency responders receiving temperature checks before each shift, mid-shift, and after each shift is over. 
  • When assessing a patient, responders are limiting physical contact. One responder assesses while the others keep a minimum 6-foot distance and will then assist as needed.  
  • There is reduced public access to fire stations. Currently, HCDFRS is not accepting visitors (other than walk-in emergencies) nor conducting public education programs. Contractors that have official business within the stations must also go through screenings. 
  • As directed by Howard County Administration, employees whose positions allow for telework are to do so. 
  • As instituted by MIEMSS Protocol, HCDFRS does not transport patients showing signs of COVID-19 who are stable with non-life-threatening symptoms. 
  • When a patient is being treated, they receive a surgical mask, also known as a droplet mask.  
  • If possible, HCDFRS asks that patients come outside of their home prior to fire department arrival. This serves to limit responders having to enter a possible exposure area. 
  • HCDFRS recently ordered ultraviolet light equipment to help with the decontamination process of apparatus and equipment.  

Recreation & Parks has announced that the April Recreation & Parks Advisory Board Meeting has been cancelled. Additionally, residents are reminded that recreational boating at Centennial Lake is prohibited. Residents are permitted to fish for food and fish from the shore. Recreation & Parks also discourages residents from traveling to parks that are not within walking distance.  

Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) are seeking different types of donations and volunteers for their COVID-19 response.  

Goods 

  • FOOD - The Howard County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) is collecting food for the Howard County Food Bank at the three Safeway locations in the county. Demand at the Food Bank has tripled while donations from churches and grocery stores have ground to a halt. If you're a Safeway shopper, please drop items in the blue Food Bank barrel as you leave the store. If you're not a Safeway shopper, you can still take food donations there and contribute to this important effort. Let's make sure our neighbors don't go hungry during the pandemic! 
  • ELASTIC – Volunteers sewing surgical masks are having trouble finding elastic. So go to your sewing and craft boxes and see if you have any rope elastic, beading cord elastic or 1/8” flat elastic. We will coordinate pickup! Contact: hocoad@gmail.com 
  • PLASTIC TRAYS – The Grassroots Crisis Center needs 15 14” x 18” and 35 12” x 16” trays for its meal service. Residents must now social distance and can’t eat together, so need trays to carry food to their rooms. Contact: info@grassrootscrisis.org 

Services 

  • MASK MAKING - The Howard County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) needs volunteers to sew homemade surgical masks to donate to office staff at small medical centers as well as to local homeless providers, emergency responders and more. We will provide patterns and pickup, but not materials. Contact: hocoad@gmail.com 
  • TEMPERATURE TAKING - Howard County is looking for one or multiple volunteers to assist the Regional Transportation Authority. The volunteer(s) must have a medical background and would need to report to the RTA in Elkridge to take temperatures of bus drivers every day from 7:30 -9:30 a.m. until further notice. Contact: Emergencymanagement@howardcountymd.gov 

Monetary Donations 

  • HOWARD COUNTY FOOD BANK – With unemployment at a record high and our county schools closed, the Howard County Food Bank is feeding an increasing number of our residents – young and old. Demand has tripled at the same time food donations from churches, synagogues and grocery stores have dried up. Their work is also harder than ever because due to social distancing, the Food Bank has had to limit the number of volunteers it accepts. Nonetheless, the Food Bank is being creative, providing food for weekly “pop up pantries” to reach those who have no way to get to their facility. Food is one of the greatest needs during the coronavirus crisis. Donations can be made at cac-hc.org

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