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There has not yet been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the City of Twin Falls or the State of Idaho, but the City and its regional partners are planning now to respond to the virus.
The City of Twin Falls began meeting with regional partners early Tuesday to develop processes and procedures that will help protect citizens and staff against the Coronavirus, while also continuing to provide critical public services.
“We assembled our team to first learn more about the virus, and then to determine how we can best assist our citizens – especially our seniors who are our most vulnerable citizens,” said Travis Rothweiler, Twin Falls City Manager. “We have also developed processes to protect our staff because they are essential to protecting our community.”
On Wednesday, the City communicated with first-responders in King County, Washington, to learn more about an area that has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Information that was gathered from King County and other affected locations, was used to help develop a local plan to maintain public services during the spread of the virus.
The City has also been in close communication with Twin Falls County, South Central Public Health District, St. Luke’s Magic Valley Hospital, Twin Falls School District, College of Southern Idaho, Magic Valley Paramedics, and Southern Idaho Regional Communication Center.
A local task force was created that includes members of the Twin Falls Fire Department, St. Luke’s Magic Valley Hospital, Magic Valley Paramedics, and emergency communication centers. The task force is developing procedures to respond to patients who display the symptoms of COVID-19.
“We want to help our residents who will be affected by the virus, but we don’t want to contract the virus and spread it to other, possibly more vulnerable, adults,” said Les Kenworthy, Chief of the City of Twin Falls’ Fire Department. “We know our employees will be on the front-line with infected citizens, and we don’t want them spreading the virus to their own families.”
In addition to emergency response, the City also evaluated its wide array of services that includes: water, wastewater, streets, airport, parks, pool, recreation, building safety, and administrative services.
“We know the services we provide are critical, and maybe even more-so now because of the virus,” Rothweiler said. “The first question we asked our organization was ‘how do we maintain essential services when it’s very likely the virus will significantly impact our city employees.”
To help prevent the spread of the virus, the city has put in place procedures to limit exposure to the public, such as: suspending all non-essential travel for city employees; having first-responders wear protective clothing and equipment when responding to respiratory cases or potential COVID-19 cases; ensuring that any sick employee stays home until symptoms improve, or they are evaluated by a medical professional; cancelling all facility tours and non-essential gatherings; and other simple steps such as avoiding shaking hands or being in close proximity to others.
Currently, Twin Falls City Hall is open to the public and no special events have been cancelled. However, the City may still do so if it receives guidance from Idaho Governor’s Office to cancel gatherings.
In the event that there is a sharp increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Twin Falls, the city will further limit exposure by doing the following: closing some City Hall departments to the public that are accessible online or by mail; cancelling special events and non-essential city meetings; and a possible delay in administrative services.
“We’re asking the community to work with us,” Rothweiler said. “We don’t know much about the virus yet, but we know that it spreads quickly and we can prevent, or slow, it’s spread by enacting these common sense approaches.”