Because of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak inching closer to southern Illinois, a proclamation of disaster was signed by Massac County Board Chairman Jayson Farmer and will be in effect for seven days. After seven days it can be extended by the entire county board if needed. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker had declared all 102 counties in states of emergencies last week, and 39 other counties in Illinois have declared local one.

The proclamation will activate the county’s emergency operations plan to assist residents of Massac County through the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and through the coordination of federal, state, county and municipal resources and response activities.

“This doesn’t mean anyone should panic or anything like that. We are not trying to promote that by any means. We are just trying to be prepared as a county and as an EMA office,” said Farmer. “I just want to make sure and let people not to go into panic mode since we’ve declared this, it’s just to try to be prepared to get things from the State of Illinois.”

As of press time there was one confirmed COVID-19 case in Jackson County, one in Williamson County and two in McCracken Coutny, Kentucky.

EMA Director Brian Horn reported to the board that to be prepared he has ordered cases of bleach, personal protective equipment kits, MREs, rubber gloves, N-95 masks, no touch digital thermometers and paper towels. At this time those disbursements are going to the counties with active COVID cases first.

According to Horn, there were several N-95 masks left from the Brookport in 2013 and those have been split between Massac Memorial Hospital (MMH), Brookport Fire Department, Joppa First Responders, the coroner’s office and the sheriff’s department.

According to Rick Goins, Chief Executive Officer of MMH, the hospital is seeing patients with flu-like symptoms and other respiratory conditions common during the spring. If the patient has the symptoms and tests negative for things such as flu, RSV and strep throat the hospital is testing for COVID-19 per the guidelines of the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control.

AS of press time, there was no confimred cases of the virus in Massac County.

“We have also declared this a disaster at the hospital and have pulled together a team to make sure that we are ready to care for any member of our community who becomes COVID-19 positive. The best way that the community can help us to minimize the impact of COVID-19 is by practicing good hand hygiene, frequent cleaning of surfaces and by social distancing,” said Goins.

Goins also reminds residents that MMH has opened a COVISD-19 hotline to ask questions. The phone number is 618-638-1344.

On March 20, Pritzker ordered a shelter in place for all residents and for all non-essential businesses to close by 5 p.m. on March 21. Businesses being closed will mean a decrease in the tax revenues for the county. Farmer said all office holders and appointed officials will be asked to limit purchases for their offices to only essential items.

During Massac County Treasurer Jody Haverkamp’s report to the board, she said the county’s general fund is currently $31,432 with a few reimbursements from county offices remaining. She also told the commissioners, the audit from Illinois Department of Employment Security, which was conducted on March 11, resulted in the fourth quarter of 2017 unemployment taxes had not been filed or paid by the previous treasurer in the amount of $678. The state could add up to 24% interest along with fines and penalties.

2018 and 2019 unemployment taxes were also reviewed and amended reports were done to correct the following unemployment taxes were being reported and paid on some elected officials and should not have been. That audit report should be ready in eight weeks.

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