WACO, Texas (KWTX) Waco and McLennan County are no stranger to disasters or disaster management, but when it comes to the coronavirus the McLennan County Emergency Management Team is dealing with something completely different from a tornado, flood or fire.
“Those are typically the things we think of when it comes to the central Texas area,” said McLennan County Emergency Management Coordinator, Elizabeth Thomas. “But we are at all hazards. That's what we prepare for. That's with all our emergency plans. And it includes public health emergencies.”
Thomas and her team are even having to adjust how the emergency operation center functions. Normally during a disaster, people would be packed in the command center shoulder to shoulder making call and plans. Now, workers are six feet apart in accordance with CDC guidelines. With most working remotely.
“It definitely promotes different challenges with communication, but there is a team lead for every section in the EOC,” said Thomas. “And so they're responsible for communicating with their people, doing whatever meetings they need to do and reporting that back up into that main group.”
Also a change of pace for the EOC, supporting rather than leading, as Thomas and her team work in conjunction with the Public Health District to support their needs. Because as we have seen, the spread of this disease is growing larger by the day
“Public Health has definitely been tracking that, and I believe what they said earlier is that we have one of the higher per capita rates for COVID cases right now,” said Thomas. “So they are actively tracking that over with the epidemiologist side and making sure we know what’s going on.”
Because the main goal of the EOC right now is keeping people healthy and making sure the hospitals function at full force
“That means we are also communicating with our hospitals,” said Thomas. “Getting a pulse on how the hospitals are doing. Are they seeing a big influx in their emergency departments? So we can help to manage that. And if they need extra resources at either Hillcrest, Providence or Family Health Center or so on, that we can help to balance that.”
The EOC is also handling donation requests for the community relating to the virus. To learn more go to covidwaco.com and click the “donate here” button.