Quincy News

Essential services on 'heightened level of awareness'

Captain Thurman Munger of the Quincy Fire Department poses in front of Quincy's Central Fire Station on Monday, March 30, 2020. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, public service workers, such as first responders still must show up for work. | H-W Photo/Katelyn Metzger
Katelyn Metzger1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 1, 2020 12:01 am Updated: Apr. 1, 2020 5:52 pm

QUINCY — Thurman Munger may have best captured what life has been like during the COVID-19 pandemic for those connected with the city's essential services.

Munger, a Quincy Fire Department captain, says there is an overriding sense of urgency.

"There is definitely a heightened level of awareness," Munger said. "Everyone is just trying to do the best they can."

Firefighters, police officers and those connected with emergency management remain on the edge of their collective seats, uncertain of what both the immediate and long-range future may actually hold.

Both firefighters and police officers have modified their responses in an effort to limit exposures and practice the all-important social distancing.

Police officers receive screenings when they report for duty and utilize proper personal protection equipment when needed.

Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley said citizens are being asked to file routine reports online or via phone. Crashes and emergencies are responded to in person.

"The call volume has slowed down," Copley said. "For the most part, officers are remaining upbeat and positive."

Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning said firefighters are no longer tag-teaming all calls with ambulance and emergency medical officials.

Firefighters are responding to cases only when "severe bleeding and/or cardiac arrest" may be involved.

"That limits exposures," Henning said. "This is definitely challenging. We're dealing with the unknown."

Munger said there are plans in place if quarantining measures are required for firefighters. Firefighters, who also have personal protection equipment to use to help guard against COVID-19, are staying connected with one another through daily video briefings.

John Simon, Adams County emergency management director, said his forces are as ready as possible if the region is hit with a COVID-19 outbreak.

"We've been working on COVID-19 and monitoring the situation since late January," he said. "We have been prepared since early February."

Simon said he has been watching how the virus has evolved.

"We know it is here, and everyone is taking it seriously," he said.

Simon said it has been reassuring to see "most people heeding recommendations" and adapting to what he termed a "temporary lifestyle."

"We are ready from an emergency medical perspective," he said. "We'll treat this like any crisis. We'll rally (as a community) and we will respond.

"It is certainly different, and it is unprecedented. This is a different type of event."

Simon hopes to keep the public as informed as possible, which he feels is of the utmost importance in this day and age.

"That will help control the rumor mill," he said, pointing to the damage that can be done in the age of advanced social media.

Blessing Hospital officials think the pandemic could threaten to overwhelm pre-hospital EMS agencies and systems nationwide. The number of EMS calls for medical care are expected to increase sharply, while at the same time EMS staffing levels are expected to hit dangerous lows as crews are isolated or quarantined following exposure to COVID-19.

The Illinois Department of Public Health and Quincy Area EMS are calling on any person who has an expired Illinois EMS license to volunteer to come back and serve as an EMS provider during this time of need.

Licenses cannot have been expired for longer than 60 months, Blessing officials say. License reinstatement is valid for six months. There is also a process to permanent license reinstatement that involves re-training and education programs to get providers back in action.

Those with questions should contact Quincy Area EMS Coordinator Mike McCarter at mike.mccarter@blessinghealth.org, or call Quincy Area EMS at 217-223-8400, ext. 6593, for additional details.

Blessing Hospital has also announced it has purchased and installed a BioFire testing system in its laboratory. BioFire allows for in-house testing of 21 common viral and bacterial respiratory pathogens in less than an hour.

The BioFire platform has received FDA approval for COVID-19 testing and the Blessing Hospital laboratory will implement the test immediately upon receipt of the test kits from the company.

Blessing officials say the BioFire system currently allows physicians to more quickly rule out other infections in a patient with symptoms of respiratory infection.

Blessing Health System has a 24/7 public hotline number -- 217-277-3504 -- to call with any questions related to COVID-19. Quincy Medical Group's COVIF-19 hot line is 217-277-4001.

Mayor Kyle Moore has been involved with a variety of community leaders to determine how to best combat the immediate and long-term impact of the virus, from both health and economic standpoints.

Moore describes the past few weeks as "tense" and laced with "uncertainty." He feels how Adams County has responded the problem could prove to be a "model" for other communities.

"I'm very grateful," he said. "There have been very few problems, and when the restrictions are lifted we want to be ready to enjoy life."

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