LITTLE VALLEY — The Cattaraugus County Emergency Operations Center is up and running, fielding hotline calls from county residents with COVID-19 concerns.

Sixteen county employees from several departments are manning the telephones in the EOC in the Office of Emergency Services in the basement of the County Center here. They are spaced out across the large room using new coronavirus social distancing.

Chris Baker, the director of Emergency Services, is grim-faced as he describes his greatest concern.

“Personal protective equipment is needed by medical facilities, nursing homes, private medical offices and first responders,” Baker said. “They need masks and other protective equipment to continue to function.”

A truck from Albany was due in Little Valley Friday afternoon with protective equipment. Baker said he wasn’t sure what PPE was on the truck but that it was his number one priority to obtain more.

The problem is, everyone else need masks and gowns, too.

“We’re still waiting for hand sanitizer, too,” Baker said. Soap and water is even better. Save the hand sanitizer for when you don’t have soap and water.

“One of our main jobs is to push information out to people,” Baker explained.

The hotline number — manned by several employees — is (716) 938-9119. It is answered from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, including weekends.

There are also employees answering calls to the Department of Aging at 373-8032 and at the Health Department at 373-8050.

A special COVID-19 website has also been set up, Baker said. The web address is www.cattco.org/term/coronavirus.

The county’s Facebook and Instagram accounts are also being used to get information out to the public, Baker said.

“We’re doing daily briefings,” Baker said of the EOC. “We’re stressing social distance here too. On Saturday, we will be taking temperatures as people enter the EOC.”

Those with a temperature of 100.4 or above will not be allowed inside. They will be sent home and told to contact their doctor.

The EOC is coordinating supplemental workers to deliver for Meals on Wheels. Public Works employees were used this week to replace Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers, most of whom are age 60 or older and in a risk group.

“Our job is to solve problems as they happen,” Baker said.

“We’re hoping to be able to set up multiple testing sites” once test kits are made available here, Baker said. When those test kits arrive is not known. At least two test sites would be set up, drive-through locations, including one in Olean.

The EOC is compiling lists including restaurants that have take-out and delivery, Baker said.

Requests from seniors are also being compiled and follow-ups conducted.

Baker said he wanted a presence on social media. “Many people are just looking for someone to talk to.”

Baker said, “We have to contain this. We are being very proactive. This is what we are trained for. You have to trust us. We are going to get through this. Remember to practice social distancing.”

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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