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March 12, 2020 9:07 AM

Mayor Grennell's Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness Task Force 2-26-20

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 28, 2020
Contact: Office of the Mayor
Phone: 601-445-7500

MAYOR FORMS CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PREPAREDNESS TASK FORCE
NATCHEZ, Mississippi -

Mayor Darryl Grennell announced the formation of a local Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness Task Force on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, at a City Hall meeting he coordinated with representatives of the Mississippi Department of Health and local entities engaged in the protection of public health, welfare, and safety. The Mayor’s intent is to be pro-active now, not reactive later, in the event of a COVID-19 incident in Natchez. “This is not a call to panic, but a call to prepare,” said Mayor Grennell. “Coronavirus has been around a long time, but as is the case with influenza, new strains of coronavirus pop up periodically. COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus strain.”

The Mayor’s action was in response to strong warnings issued the previous day (Tuesday) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Specifically, the CDC has requested that all Americans channel their concerns about the virus into planning, preparedness, and prevention. Local officials are requested to act now to ensure that systems are in place should there be a local COVID-19 impact.
The 15-member Task Force includes Dr. Lee England, Internal Medicine Physician, Lance Boyd, CEO, Merit Health Natchez, William Thames, Oncology Pharmacist (retired), Robert Bradford, Director, Natchez Emergency Management, and Fred Butcher, Superintendent, Natchez Adams School District, as schools are likely one of the largest impact groups for the spread of the virus.
Mayor Grennell charged the Task Force with identifying local “congregate settings” (schools, workplaces, theaters, shopping centers, restaurants, churches) where close contact with others may occur. The Task Force will work to verify that local healthcare providers, schools, businesses, and others operating in at-risk settings either have programs in place or are connected to the appropriate professional resources for guidance on preparedness and prevention. Task Force members will monitor the latest information on the spread of COVID-19 within the United States and work to ensure that key organizations, as well as the community at large, are apprised of developments and updates relevant to public health and safety.
Representing the State Department of Health at the Task Force meeting, Tessa Dykes, Epidemiology Nurse, and Michelle McCain, Emergency Preparedness Nurse (EPN), reviewed state protocols and provided coronavirus information packets. Nurse McCain is responsible for COVID-19 coordination within the Southern Public Health Region A, which includes Natchez, Adams.

Also, in response to the CDC’s national call for local action, Task Force member Lance Boyd, CEO of Merit Health Natchez issued the following statement: “Our hospital continually works to be prepared for all types of infectious diseases. We have been educating our team members on the infection control protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the Novel Coronavirus 2019, just as we do for other types of infectious diseases. We are using the screening guidelines for symptoms and risk factors and have a response plan to protect patients and our staff should it be needed. We understand the sensitivity at this time and want to reassure the community that we remain alert and ready to provide such care if necessary.”
Task Force member Robert Bradford, Director of Natchez Emergency Management, reports that his team is working on COVID-19 planning both locally and regionally. Bradford participates on the Regional Emergency Planning Committee (REPC), which coordinates emergency protocols for Adams, Jefferson and Franklin Counties with the State Department of Health. This March, Adams County will be conducting a full-scale exercise on pandemic influenza outbreak “to test the response and recovery abilities of local and state responders.” Bradford says this experience will inform the protocol they develop for a potential coronavirus event.
Although the risk of infection for the Natchez area remains low and no cases have been reported to date, the Mayor’s first priority as relates to this matter is the health and welfare of the people of Natchez, which is the primary reason for the formation of the Task Force. Members of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force Members currently include the following individuals:

Mayor Darryl Grennell
Dr. Lee England, Internal Medicine Physician Merit Health Natchez
Lance Boyd, CEO of Merit Health Natchez
Tammy Crawford, Chief Quality Officer for Merit Health Natchez
William Thames, Oncology Pharmacist (retired)
Robert Bradford, Director, Natchez Emergency Management
Tim Houghton, Operations Manager AMR Natchez
Ventris Green, Chief, Natchez Fire Department
Walter Armstrong, Chief, Natchez Police Department
Travis Patten, Sheriff, Adams County
Debbie Hudson, Chamber of Commerce
Fred Butcher, Superintendent, Natchez Adams School District (NASD)
Melvin Davis, Safety & Security Coordinator, Natchez Adams School District (NASD) Larnell Ford, Director of Operations, Natchez Adams School District (NASD) Chesney Doyle, Community Liaison to the Mayor
Jennifer Combs, Visit Natchez
Marc Doyle, Community Representative for First Presbyterian Church of Natchez Dustin Hinkle, Special Assistant to the Mayor & Social Media Manager

Task Force Assignments
Assignments were confirmed to individual task force members to take on their respective fields to ensure preparedness on every level for the COVID-19 outbreak. The Task Force appointments are as follows:

TASK FORCE CHAIRMAN
Dr. Lee England, Internal Medicine Physician Merit Health Natchez
TASK FORCE CO-CHAIR
William Thames, Oncology Pharmacist (retired)
HEALTHCARE
Lance Boyd, CEO of Merit Health Natchez
LOCAL CLINICS
Jessica Ryan, Merit Health
TOURISM
Jennifer Combs, Executive Director, Visit Natchez
PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Fred Butcher, Superintendent, Natchez Adams School District (NASD)
CHURCHES
Marc Doyle, Community Representative for First Presbyterian Church of Natchez
MEDIA
Dustin Hinkle, Special Assistant to the Mayor/ Media Manager

For more information on COVID-19, please visit CDC.gov/COVID19 or msdh.ms.gov/coronavirus

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