Sikeston City Manager gives COVID-19 update
Over the past several weeks, I have spent much of my time as city manager monitoring state and federal government guidance on COVID-19 and adjusting city operations to comply with any recommendations and directives issued by health authorities. At the same time, like many Sikestonians, I have been dealing with the ramifications of these conditions at home, where my five children and teacher wife are enjoying (or enduring?) a very long spring break, largely isolated from friends, sports, and typical activities.
While we all suffer the common challenges of canceled classes, postponed events, limited availability of certain products, and restrictions on visits to family and friends, there are many people in our community working diligently to plan for, respond to, and reduce the spread of COVID-19. In Sikeston, this effort is lead by a collaborative task force at Missouri Delta Medical Center that has daily internal meetings, and weekly meetings with community partners including the ambulance districts, county health departments, other healthcare providers, emergency responders, and local businesses.
Recently several large communities in Missouri, and several states including Illinois, have announced “stay at home” orders that limit people from leaving their residences except for certain essential activities such as grocery shopping, medical care, and essential employment. Some Sikeston citizens and businesses have asked city officials if we expect any similar order in Sikeston. To be completely frank, I do not know. Any such order would come either from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, or from the county health departments, as these are the regulatory agencies in charge of health in our state.
What I do know is that many Sikeston businesses and employees are part of what the Department of Homeland Security calls the “Essential Critical Infrastructure” of our country. These businesses provide health services, food, animal care, transportation, energy, communications, manufacturing, and other services that are critical even during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic. If state or county authorities consider any kind of “stay at home” order, the city will advocate for sensible exemptions for such critical business operations.
The best thing any of us can do right now is to follow the advice of health authorities and the requests of our local medical providers. In addition to the sanitization and social distancing practices currently recommended, Missouri Delta Medical Center has temporarily suspended all visitors to the hospital (with a few very specific exemptions) and has asked patients to call ahead for appointments, especially if they suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19. All of these actions together will help ensure that our medical system has the capacity to treat all critical patients, no matter what ails them.
I encourage all Sikeston residents to follow the latest orders from our state and federal health authorities, to seek credible information from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and to check in on your friends and neighbors who may have special needs during these challenging times (while observing proper social distancing and hygiene practices, of course). I have no fear for the long-term future of Sikeston, as long as we each continue doing our part in the short term to protect the rest of our community.
Jonathan M. Douglass
City of Sikeston, Missouri