County commissioners received an update about COVID-19, the novel coronavirus Tuesday by Washington County health and emergency services officials.

Emergency Medical Services Director Kevin Deramus said the county has seen nine patients transported for COVID-19 symptoms and all tests have come back negative.

Deramus said any patient showing respiratory or coronavirus symptoms are not being held at local hospitals while waiting for test results and are sent home to self-quarantine or are sent to other facilities. Currently tests are being sent to the Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Temple and takes between 24-48 hours to come back. Tests are currently averaging about 16 hours for results.

“I have no doubt we’ll have a positive test,” Deramus said. “We are working daily with the state health services, CDC. At times there seems like there is very little information coming out, we apologize for that. That’s not necessarily the intent. We are trying to give you accurate data.”

Deramus said since the situation is so rapidly changing, getting accurate information out is hard. He assured commissioners EMS is working with community partners.

“We have a continuous work plan of what-if scenarios,” Deramus said. “It tends to scare people when we give what-if scenarios. We have a really strong relationship with Baylor Scott & White. We are talking with them daily about how we can use programs we’ve built over the years that are coming in handy now.”

Some commissioners addressed the panic associated with coronavirus.

“We need to keep calm and carry on,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Kirk Hanath said. “We can’t be panicked. I think you make poor decisions when you’re fearful. I think we need to keep on with our daily lives.”

Deramus stated in the EMS report for February that there were nine Level Twos in February, meaning that all units were on call. He could not attribute the figure to any instance, saying it was somewhat random and not flu-related.

“Our message from a healthcare standpoint is we are trying to control when we get it in a controlled fashion,” he said. “On a normal healthcare day, we get an alert that some hospitals can’t accept patients because they are at max. If you added 5% of people that get the flu in a 5-week period, it would be absolutely overwhelmed.”

Deramus said a local health care coalition, consisting of several local health officials and stakeholders, will meet Wednesday to discuss an action plan for Washington County. He said the meeting will be a discussion to gather information and concerns from local officials and action may not be taken.

Commissioners approved providing Mental Health First Aid Class to all Washington County employees.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Candice Bullock recommended that elected officials and supervisors be strongly advised/encouraged to take this training.

“I think it’s a worthwhile things to do,” Washington County Judge John Durrenberger said. “Our employees need to know how to recognize the symptoms (of mental health crises).”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Brazos Valley (NAMI-BV) initiated a “Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)” program in the community in 2015 to combat the likelihood of a mental health crisis.

NAMI-BV has certified MHFA adult, youth and public safety instructors and who can help train jailers, police officers and other service-oriented professionals, as well as teachers and members of the public to improve mental health literacy.

That includes helping identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.

Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour evidence-based training certification course which teaches participants a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions and secure appropriate care for the individual.

County commissioners also approved an interlocal agreement between the city of Brenham and Washington County related to economic development services.

This item pertains to the Silver Crayon project, a confidential and competitive project and not all information is available to the public yet. Susan Cates, economic development director, gave the court the public information March 10 saying the urgency of the project is the extension of a gas line with the application deadline on April 15.

County commissioners approved this item on in hopes that more project information. City council will vote on this item Thursday.

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