The Homer Unified Command gave a report to the city council Monday night regarding its preparations to face Covid-19 when the virus arrives in Homer.
Fire Chief Mark Kirko of the Homer Volunteer Fire Department, who will be heading the Unified Command when the city manager leaves, said local emergency responders share the concerns of those elsewhere, and that is the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as gloves, masks, gowns and face shields.
“So there are some committees working on how do we overcome some of those challenges. Some of it comes down to how we respond and changing the way our policy for response looks,” he said. “So we are working on that in-house, internally with the fire department folks, in conjunction with the borough and Department of Health and Social Services, to come up with better response plans to help us out with that.”
He also reported a plan in the works to direct healthy volunteers to people and places in need, something Mayor Ken Castner was curious about.
“Chief, I've got a question for you, I just need for you to provide a little further explanation about the volunteers. And that's something that I've been getting a lot of a number of inquiries about. What can I do to help? What can I do? You know, I'm a, I'm a carpenter, I can go fix things if somebody needs it,” Castner said. “At this point, though, you're not; you're not really employing any of those volunteers or dispatching them. You're just taking lists. Is that correct?”
“So far, sir, that's correct. I'm working with Julie in planning to try to get a list put together and a call-in system that works for everybody. And then trying to find a coordinator to basically build that algorithm out of the types of requests coming in, so that we can address them in a sufficient manner,” Kirko said. “It's just taken a couple of days here to get through all this to make sure we get it right because we don't want to send people off either on a wild goose chase or on something that could be you know potentially harmful to themselves.”
Council member Heath Smith had a question for Lorne Carroll, the Homer Public Health Nurse, that has come up in several venues, and it involves the fact that we’re still in the midst of a regular flu season.
“So this question is for Lorne with public health,” Smith said. “Are you guys still recommending that people come in and get their seasonal flu shots at this time in order to kind of slow down any potential infection on that side that would increase the workload of the health community?”
“Yeah, thanks for the opportunity to unpack that a little bit better and more,” Carroll said. “Yeah, we are recommending that everyone aged six months and older get a flu shot for the season if they have not yet.”
It’s worth remembering that the annual influenza shot does not provide any immunity to the new coronavirus, Covid-19, but will, as Council member Smith said, keep people from getting sick and needing hospitalization from something that can be avoided, the seasonal flu.
Carroll suggested contacting one’s family doctor first if you have insurance.
“If you do not, or have other barriers, social, economic or other, you can call the Homer, please call first, Homer Public Health Center at 235-8857,” he said. “And currently the section of Public Health Nursing is waiving associated fees for flu vaccine. That's 235-8857 please call first and then we'll help to get you to the right place.”