Council Report: Briefing on Fort Worth response to coronavirus


As is the case with many cities across the United States, the City of Fort Worth is taking precautions to deal with the coronavirus, though at the time of this article no cases had been reported in Tarrant County.

Fire Chief Jim Davis and Tarrant County Public Health Epidemiology Manager Russ Jones presented the city council with a briefing at Tuesday’s work session.

“We have to take it seriously. It could be pandemic at some point,” District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton said. “Our job is to raise awareness. Certainly, civic safety is a big issue.

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“We follow the leads of those people in public health who say we ought to be doing this.”

Tarrant County Public Health updates include:

*Testing capability soon.

*Corona Virus Hotline: 817-248-6299.

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*Department Operation Center remains active and in monitoring status.

*TCPH Webpage on novel Corona Virus:

“We don’t have a vaccine. We don’t have drugs for it at this point, but we can do the basic things we do for the flu, and that’s not be around someone who has been sick, or if you are sick, stay home,” Jones said. “Of all the things we can do, remember elementary school and kindergarten. Wash your hands. Keep them away from your face or eyes.”

Jones also stressed washing hands after touching items that were likely touched by others, such as doorknobs, handrails, countertops, etc.

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The coronavirus timeline includes:

*Jan. 19 – Health Alert Network Update – outbreak.

*Jan. 21 – First Confirmed case in the U.S.

*Jan. 24 – Medical directive issued.

*Jan. 28 – Health Advisory sent out by Tarrant County to school districts for situational awareness.

*Jan. 30 – World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern.

*Feb. 4 – Updated medical directive issued.

*Feb. 29 – First death reported in Washington.

*March 2 – Number of cases in Texas reaches 11, all in the San Antonio area.

*March 3 – Number of cases worldwide tops 92,000 with 3,131 deaths.

*March 3 – Number of cases in U.S. tops 100, with six deaths, all in Washington State.

The Joint Emergency Operations Center Coordination includes:

*Tarrant County Public Health is the lead agency and is issuing daily situation reports. Fort Worth Code, fire department, police department, and Medstar are all in communication.

*Coordinating with Tarrant County Public Health, emergency medical systems, hospitals, school districts, and universities as needed. TCU and University of North Texas have students abroad.

*Situation reports and dashboard population.

*Public messaging templates and drafts – Michelle Gutt and city communications.

*Monitoring any conference calls.

*Entering State of Texas resource requests as needed.

*Continue to plan for worse case “what if” scenarios.

The City of Fort Worth Continuity of Operations Plans include:

*Majority plans reviewed/updated by Office of Emergency Management deadline of Jan. 31.

*Defines essential/non-essential functions and personnel.

*Remote work considerations.

*Self/quarantine enforcement.

*COOP Team (all city departments) included in Joint Emergency Operations Center email lists.

*Feb. 27 – COOP exercise held, coronavirus update given.

*COOP Team continues to monitor, and is integrated within JEOC operations to be an advisory team to the executive team as needed.

As for response plans:

*City of Fort Worth is in communication with external partners such as DFW, Naval Air Station Fort Worth, and Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH).

*TCPH has been making Fort Worth Fire Department and Medstar aware of patients under observation.

*FWFD and Medstar have worked with medical direction to develop 9-1-1 call triage questions, medical response plans, and transport guidelines to include level of protective equipment.

“There’s been very good cooperation and coordination with outside agencies, including UNT and TCU, who have students traveling internationally,” Davis said. “Texas A&M just took the steps at limiting travel for their students to areas that have been impacted by this.”

Health authorities are encouraging population to take preventive actions, such as:

*Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

*Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

*Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

*Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

*Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.

What Fort Worth officials do know:

*There has been good cooperation and communication amongst agencies.

*Plans are developed for response if needed.

*Lessons were learned from the Ebola situation.

*Equipment is available in stock

*There are no confirmed cases in Fort Worth but there are people under observation.

*Handwashing works.

What they don’t know:

*Future impact on services if situation escalates.

*Long-term supply shortages or financial impact if the situation continues to escalate.

*How Center for Disease Control guidelines will continue to change regarding response, treatment, isolation, and prevention if situation continues to escalate.

*Impact of/on community events, including South By Southwest in Austin, etc.

*Impact on work place and education as part of future prevention strategies.

“The idea here is to prevent a spike in cases so we don’t overwhelm our medical systems like happened in Wuhan, China, where people couldn’t get in a hospital,” Jones said.

“The bottom line is we’re well-prepared here, and we will continue to stay on top of this,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “There’s no reason for panic, but everybody does need to be aware of the situation, stay informed about as much as you can, and know as a city and county we will be staying on top of it.”