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Coalition meets to discuss local virus response

On Tuesday, the Selma-Dallas County Coronavirus Community Coalition held its first COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall meeting over the phone – the meetings are slated to take place at noon every Tuesday moving forward.

A myriad of local elected, law enforcement and healthcare officials joined the call to provide an update on efforts they have been taking to fight the spread of the coronavirus, which has so far only infected two people in Dallas County.

After a brief update on the most recent state health order issued by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, which enforced new restrictions on businesses, entertainment venues, sports events and other activities, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, provided an update on the recently-passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which will send most Americans a payment of up to $1,200 for individuals and $3,400 for families and expand unemployment benefits.

The payments will be distributed via information on file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and officials are working out the details for how non-filers will access their payments, Sewell said, adding that more information could be found on her website at sewell.house.gov.

A representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, urged people to be patient while seeking unemployment assistance, as the Department of Labor has been overwhelmed with people seeking assistance.

A representative from MainStreet Family Care, which has a testing site set up in Selma, reported that staff is monitoring the testing recommendations handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noting that testing site have now been instructed to test healthcare providers and first responders exhibiting any symptoms of the illness – such workers were previously required to exhibit multiple symptoms before a test could be administered.

The Dallas County Health Department reported that it would be offering drive-thru testing Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Patients seeking testing will need a recommendation from their primary care physician – those lacking a regular doctor can contact the health department at 334-874-2550 for assistance.

Vaughan Regional Medical Center (VRMC) CEO David McCormack reported that 35 patients have been tested at the local hospital, with one confirmed case – the second reported case in Dallas County was tested at the University of Alabama – Birmingham (UAB) clinic.

McCormack stated that 20 tests have thus far been negative while results, which generally take a week to get, are still pending in the other cases.

Additionally, McCormack noted that VRMC’s corporate office is doing a good job in getting the hospital all of the personal protective equipment (PPE) it needs, adding that the hospital was not running low on ventilators, with only about 30 percent currently in use.

Rural Health Medical Program (RHMP) CEO Keshee Dozier-Smith reported that patients have happily transitioned to phone and video appointments, though she is still waiting on PPEs ordered previously.

Dozier-Smith added that RHMP is working to establish a mobile unit that can be used a regional testing site.

Selma City Schools (SCS) Superintendent Dr. Avis Williams reported that school officials are in the process of scheduling senior prom and graduation to be held this Summer.

Williams noted that SCS will use a “blended model” to educate out-of-school students, which will combine online and paper work, as access to technology is not readily available to all students.