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Local first responders addressing COVID-19

As the coronavirus threat continues across the nation, local first responders are implementing their own restrictions and changes to halt the spread of the disease.

Many, including Winchester Fire-EMS, Clark County Fire Department and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office have closed their stations or offices to public access. Winchester Police Department already has an isolated lobby with limited public access.

Winchester Fire-EMS Chief Cathy Rigney said in a statement the department has suspended all its non-essential services including CPR and first aid classes, car seat installation and station tours. Firefighters are limiting their travel outside the stations for essential purposes only, she said.

Rigney said firefighters and EMS personnel are wearing additional personal protection equipment, and patients may be asked to wear a mask.

“Please do not be alarmed as we are taking these extra precautions to protect you and our members,” Rigney said. “Many of our patient interactions are with the most vulnerable population. We use these precautions to try and ensure out community remains healthy and (our) crews are available to handle emergencies.”

Rigney and Winchester Police Capt. Dennis Briscoe said dispatchers may ask additional questions including whether the patient or anyone associated has flu-like symptoms, a fever or a cough.

That applies to employees as well, Briscoe said. If they are sick, don’t come in.

“We‘ll work around work schedules,” he said. “We’re also promoting a six-foot minimum distance. They have to wash their hands after every (public) contact.”

Briscoe and Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue Jr. said many things, including taking reports, can be accomplished over the telephone which limits public contact as well.

“We’re trying to handle as many things as we can over the phone,” Briscoe said. “We’ll limit our exposure to the elderly because they seem to be at risk. Unless it’s an emergency, we’ll limit our exposure.”

Perdue said he asked his deputies to take the additional step not to socialize with each other, in addition to only coming to the office when absolutely necessary.

“In a small sheriff’s office like us with 13 deputies, if you get two or three quarantined for two weeks, it cripples you,” Perdue said.

The Sheriff’s Office also limited its services this week, including issuing concealed carry permits and taking some reports. Vehicle inspections will be by appointment only.

Perdue said his deputies were told to maintain more than a six-foot distance between people and to disinfect their handcuffs regularly.

“I think everyone has bought in … that we’re all in this together,” Perdue said.

“I think the biggest concern is people not heeding the instruction by the governor,” Briscoe said, “and not taking the threat seriously. This period of time about limiting contact … is there for a reason. We need to stop it somehow. This is the way to do it.”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0051.

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