In the midst of the emergency
As of Thursday, Emmet County had zero cases of COVID-19.
“Wouldn’t it be great if after all this we stayed at zero,” said Emmet County Emergency Director Travis Sheridan. “That would show we’re listening.”
Sheridan, who began as emergency director two years ago, said he had already met with Estherville Lincoln Central Superintendent Tara Paul and North Union Superintendent Travis Schueller three hours prior to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds May 15 announcement to shut down schools for four weeks.
Sheridan said that meeting came about because of what Minnesota was already doing with their schools.
“I’m glad we had time to sit and see what that would look like, because three hours later the governor made her announcement,” Sheridan said. “Tara ran that plan at ELC and Travis at North Union ran the plan.”
Sheridan said the next day had to contact area organizations and find out what organizations in the county had planned large gatherings. By the time some of that information was compiled, the information was obsolete because Homeland Security shut down events with groups greater than 10 people.
Most important for Sheridan is the people on the front lines-first responders of firefighters, law enforcement and ambulance personnel.
“We’re getting some good guidance on some things and not so much on others,” said Sheridan. “If I didn’t have emergency partners like Dickinson County and District 2, which consists of counties to the east, a person in this position could get overwhelmed.”
Sheridan said he has daily meetings at 8 a.m. with long-term care facilities, mayors and other officials discussing “where we see ourselves in the next three days.”
Sheridan said as a border county, he also has to pay attention to what Minnesota is doing, especially with essential workers who travel across state lines.
“Companies are telling us that Minnesota is issuing orders for only essential business to remain open,” Sheridan said.
On Wednesday, Sheridan said he took part in six conference calls including a joint one between management directors in Iowa and Minnesota. At one point, he was listening to the Minnesota governor’s daily message and then listening to the governor of Iowa’s message.
In Emmet County during past emergencies, an operation center has helped answer peoples problems. Now he says they’re working to provide a virtual operation center too limit exposure.
Coming from a firefighter background, Sheridan said those and the ambulance drivers are the first line have defense.
“We can’t have meetings or work nights, but they’re chomping at the bit to do their part,” said Sheridan. “But we can’t lose a fire department, law enforcement or ambulance drivers with all coming down with the virus.
“We’re slowing the virus so we don’t break the healthcare system like in New York,” he added.
Sheridan said they’re also working to help the health care facilities catch up in their lack of personal protection equipment like masks and face shields.
“We’ve reached out to our community for these things to keep safe,” he said.
Sheridan said the most important thing for residents to do is to keep track of the information put out by the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office, police departments and emergency management.
“If you have a cough of fever, don’t go to work,” he said.