Local county, city and school districts prepare for potential coronavirus outbreak

SPOKANE, Wash. — Local agencies are saying they are ready to fight the spread of the coronavirus, if need be.

Cities, counties and local school districts are brushing the dust off their pandemic plans. Some of them haven’t been touched in years.

A possible outbreak of the coronavirus is just like any other emergency situation. Spokane County, the City of Spokane and Spokane Public Schools have a plan in place.

The feeling of fear and panic grows as more countries report outbreaks of the infectious disease.

Closer to home, nothing has happened yet. Even though Sacred Heart has four patients in isolation who came from California, local health officials, city and county leaders are echoing the same message: There is low risk to our community.

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“Fear and panic doesn’t help. People can have concerns, and rightly so,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization.

On Wednesday, national health organizations said we need to prepare locally. Our local agencies are doing just that.

“The county has in place a pandemic plan that we wrote several years ago when we had the swine flu outbreak. That is still relevant,” said Chandra Fox, the deputy director of the Greater Spokane Emergency Management.

That plan explains what would happen in case of an outbreak, how the country would proceed.

“In the swine flu, we figured basically a 30 percent reduction in staff. Basically 30 percent of your staff would be out at any one time,” she said.

That means they’d look at who is really needed to keep the county and city running, for example first responders.

“Think about our technology and infrastructure, to make sure that stays in place and up and running. Those are two big pieces people see in a very necessary and potentially could be very impactful if they were to be disrupted,” said Brian Coddington, the communications director for the City of Spokane.

Spokane Public Schools would also get its instructions from the regional health district, like if they’d need to close down school.

In the mean time, schools are being cleaned and disinfected because it’s also flu season.

Staff is still asking students to practice good hygiene.

“I will say we prepare for this all of the time. We’ve been preparing for this for years. We feel like we’re in a really good place. We’re ready,” said Becky Doughty, the director of health services with the school district.

These three agencies, along with Kootenai County Emergency Management, are all monitoring the situation closely, talking to health officials often.

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