“We’re in it for the long haul” – St. Louis County director of emergency management addresses needs, issues during coronavirus

Missouri
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ST. LOUIS – From the stay-at-home order to the securing of medical supplies, the local response to the coronavirus has been enormous. And it won’t let up any time soon.

“Our function is to prepare St. Louis County for response and recovery, from any incident or event,” said Michele Ryan, the county’s newly-appointed director of St. Louis County’s Office of Emergency Management.

Experts and department leaders from various fields have been working around the clock amid the Coronavirus, Ryan said.

While most people might not be familiar with St. Louis County’s Emergency Operations Center, they now know of one of the biggest announcements to emerge from it: the stay-at-home order.

“That stay-at-home order and everything that’s behind that, that was driven by public health, which is here. Along with Dr. [Sam] Page’s office, he has been very engaged with this activation,” Ryan said.

The stay-at-home order is to be taken seriously, she said.

“Please, abide by the stay-at-home order. Especially if you’re in one of those vulnerable populations,” Ryan said.

Within the EOC is an array of departments in addition to public health, including fire, EMS, police, public information, and other fields.

All of them work in collaboration to share information and create plans that are the infrastructure to navigate through the coronavirus response, Ryan said.

One of the other big tasks at hand for the Office of Emergency Management is securing gear for all 61 police departments and 42 fire protection districts in the county.

“We’re running one logistics unit for all of the first response agencies. And everything is being funneled through them. I think I’ve heard the number for 14 days, for all of those first response agencies, we need about 400,000 sets of [Personal Protective Equipment] PPE,” Ryan said.

With PPEs difficult to come by, Ryan said St. Louis County is leveraging its buying power. It is working with regional partners and other counties to secure gear.

“We have used the Civil Air Patrol to pick PPE that was out of state. To get it here faster,” she said. “They’re buying as much as they can, when they can.”

As far as messaging, Ryan said the county is emphasizing that COVID-19 testing is now available at more sites throughout the county. Those who display the symptoms and have physician approval are eligible. For more information, contact 314-615-2660.

A question many people ask is how long the Coronavirus response will last. Ryan said that's difficult to answer on any level – local, state, or federal.

“We’re in the long haul, however long that might be,” she said.

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