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Commissioners discuss issues from COVID-19

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission continues to mull the challenges facing the county during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commission discussed a variety of issues at its Monday meeting, including the local homeless population, the opening of the county’s new drive-thru facility on Dudley Avenue, conducting temperature checks at facilities and more.

Officials discussed that in other areas people and organizations are looking to lease out hotels and motels to house the homeless for the duration of the pandemic.

Commission President Blair Couch said he has been receiving information from officials around the state.

A Motel 6 in Morgantown was turned over to the local Homeless Coalition to house homeless. Another idea that has been passed along includes gathering the homeless and putting them in one spot to better provide services to them as well as isolate them if they are positive for the virus, Couch said.

”The (local) health department does not have funds to lease a whole facility,” Couch said.

Health departments in West Virginia have seen around a 25 percent decrease in funding over the past few years from the state.

”It is coming back to bite us,” Couch said.

Officials said any kind of plan like that would be problematic from many different points of view. There are also risks to the health department’s personnel, Couch said of them not doing something like that at this point.

”They want resources and we don’t have a whole lot,” he said.

County officials have been considering the idea of doing mandatory temperature checks at the Wood County Justice Center.

The county has had laser temperature guns on order, have had orders canceled and reordered again. The latest estimate has some arriving by the middle of the month.

Checks have been conducted with an ear thermometer, but people have raised concerns about that, even though a new plastic tip is put on with each check.

Some other facilities around the community have stopped the checks as temperature is not a strict gauge. Asymptomatic people may not have a temperature and could still be exposing people to the virus.

Many places are still doing a questionnaire.

”We are doing the one building where we have the most traffic from the public,” County Administrator Marty Seufer said.

Temperature is an indicator and officials want to continue to do the checks.

However, supplies of the tips are starting to run low. Officials agreed personnel would reserve checks to very specific instances.

When the time comes, they will have to rely on the questionnaire system. Officials have already limited access to many county buildings to appointments only.

”Even if you ask if someone has a temperature, how many people are taking their temperature?” Commissioner Bob Tebay asked.

The county doesn’t have the resources available to give everyone who comes into a facility a mask and gloves.

The county has opened its mobile courthouse facility at the Consumer Credit Counseling building at 2435 Dudley Ave. in Parkersburg to handle a number of the regular business transactions that people have had to come down to the Wood County Courthouse to do.

The facility is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

It includes personnel from the Wood County Clerk’s Office, the Wood County Assessor’s Office and the Wood County Circuit Clerk’s Office to answer questions and handle paperwork issues utilizing the building’s drive-thru lanes.

Officials are utilizing emails, faxes and other technology between this location and the courthouse and county offices to get people the needed information and documents to be able to conduct business.

County Clerk Mark Rhodes said people were utilizing it on Monday.

The Wood County Tax Office has also reopened its drive-thru behind the Judge Black Annex.

Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens said they have had “several” people applying for concealed carry permits.

People who are renewing theirs can fill out the paperwork and they will use the picture on their previous license. Only new applicants would have to come into their offices to get a picture taken.

He said their call volume is down because of the current situation. However, they are still getting a number of domestic violence calls due to people being cooped up inside.

Couch said any Personal Protective Equipment the county gets will go to the sheriff’s department first.

”We want you and your people to be safe,” Couch said.

Frist-responders are wearing protective gear when they answer a call and have to get out of their cruisers.

Rick Woodyard, 911 director, said protective gowns are what is needed for some emergency responders. Other gear has been distributed as it has come in, he said.

Rhodes said work is continuing on getting ready for the upcoming elections.

They will be mailing out application cards to every registered voter in Wood County to see if they would like to vote by absentee ballot.

”Absentee ballots may be the only thing we have going for us,” Couch said.

Rhodes said they got 55 absentee ballots just on Monday.

”We cannot do the tally until Election Day,” he said.

Seufer said they are still watching if any orders come down from the state that would limit meeting attendance as officials are looking at the possibility they might eventually have to do a teleconference meeting or a live streamed meeting at some point.

”We are looking at options,” he said.

Most of the county’s tax collections were done in February and March so the county does have money coming in, officials said.

The county is attempting to get more protective gear for essential people, like law-enforcement.

Stephens said they are currently doing well with equipment, but that could change if the area gets a spike in cases.

Officials are working on developing a stockpile to be used if needed in emergency situations or if there is a surge in cases.

As of Monday, Wood County had 13 COVID-19 cases confirmed.

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