SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — When the COVID-19 outbreak hit Tennessee, it hit Sumner County hard. In April, it lead the state in positive cases and deaths most out of a nursing home in Gallatin.
“Our command staff, we were actually here at the EOC for five days straight and we ran unified command for a month,” said Sumner County Emergency Management Executive Director Ken Weidner.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of a second wave of coronavirus in the U.S. again Wednesday. Experts agree, reopening too soon could cause the numbers to skyrocket this fall.
Sumner County EMA is preparing for that possible second wave now.
“We have to plan for another bad situation, we just don’t know that it’ll happen,” Weidner explained, “We just hope it doesn’t happen, but that’s the way we’re gonna plan for it.”
When the 911 calls started coming in for patients at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing, EMA had to implement new policies and procedures fast.
“Early on, we developed a system with our dispatch center where they would screen the caller,” explained Weidner.
Dispatch would ask questions about a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing as well as exposure to Coronavirus.
“If the caller was potentially positive, that’s what we got,” Weidner added, “We got a screening positive, a screening negative, or a screening unknown on dispatch.”
Like several other counties across the country; the outbreaks put a strain on dispatch, first responders, ambulance transports, and personal protective equipment.
“We’ve really depleted our PPE stock we got a good push from citizens bringing in PPE from the schools, hand sanitizer, and things like that,” said Weidner, “So looking forward, we know we have a challenge of getting our stock of PPE back up for the potential second stage of this in the fall going into the winter.”
That, in addition to a new plan to not overload the county’s health care system.
When the outbreak at the nursing home occurred, a mass evacuation occurred over several days and most patients were taken to Sumner Regional Medical Center, where they were quickly inundated with in-processing patients.
“When we started moving people to Sumner Regional and Hendersonville Medical Center and other hospitals outside of Sumner County, we did learn that we need to stagger where they go a little better.”
Sumner Regional told News 2 in a statement that they are prepared, saying in part:
“Sumner Regional Medical Center continues to be prepared with appropriate plans to detect, protect and respond to our community’s healthcare needs. We were anticipating the potential of COVID-19 in our community for several months, building upon robust emergency operations plans that are in place year-round to ensure our readiness for many potential scenarios.”
“We’re gonna plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Weidner.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.