Local health department developed response plans since 2009

ANDERSON — The H1N1 pandemic of 2009 has helped the Madison County Health Department to be better prepared for the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Madison County reported the first positive case of COVID-19 and the Indiana State Department of Health reported 39 positive cases in the state and two deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2009 that 59 million Americans caught the H1N1 influenza that resulted in 12,000 deaths and 265,000 people hospitalized.

In Indiana, there were 782 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus and 39 deaths.

The Madison County Health Department provided 7,300 doses of vaccine in 2009 to health care and emergency workers and 15,000 doses to the general public in 2010.

“Today we have a continuity plan to provide essential services,” Stephenie Grimes, administrator of the health department, said Wednesday. “We didn’t have that plan in 2009.

“We fine-tuned over the years our flu, infectious disease and continuity plans,” she said. “We have strengthened the relationships between the health department and emergency services.”

Grimes served as preparedness coordinator for the health department in 2009 and noted that the hospitals, emergency services and the health department all worked together.

“The plans we have now are more detailed and more flexible,” she said. “Since 2009 we have worked to have an immediate plan in place so we can mobilize resources as quickly as possible.”

The health department now knows how to access volunteers who are willing to help, which was different in 2009. Grimes said a lot of volunteers stepped forward to assist during the H1N1 outbreak.

Grimes said the task force that was created in the county two weeks ago includes all aspects of the community to work in a coordinated effort.

“We had the task force ready to respond immediately,” she said.

The task force, which has designated contact people for schools, fire and police departments and emergency services, recently added representatives from the faith-based and business communities.

Grimes said the COVID-19 virus “ramped” up more quickly than the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

She said the H1N1 outbreak went on for three or four months and COVID-19 has progressed over six weeks.

“This is bigger in terms of the response,” Grimes said. “All of us are uncomfortable right now.”

She said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is projecting that 80% of the COVID-19 cases will be mild while the majority of the H1N1 cases were considered to be moderate.

Grimes said county officials want to make sure they didn’t miss anything to be prepared once the crisis passes.

“Did we have enough preventative equipment and supplies?” she said. “Were they out of date? We will prepare for a coordinated response with an updated total of supplies that each agency has on hand.”

Grimes said the local health departments in several counties have been in contact with Madison County just to check on how things are progressing.

“We’re fending for ourselves,” she said. “I met with our staff this week to check on them because we’re all fielding lots of telephone calls.”

Grimes said in the future the health department will meet with all the impacted agencies to review the existing plans and make adjustments.

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