Prince William County is actively cooperating with surrounding jurisdictions, businesses, hospitals, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia Department of Health and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to directly confront COVID-19. County Executive Chris Martino recently gave a presentation to the Board of County Supervisors showing how the county has prepared to meet the threat of the virus.
According to Martino, Prince William County has been planning for the virus since late 2019, when it was clear there was going to be an emergency. The Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, was activated on March 9 due to additional confirmed cases in the National Capital Region.
Martino said activating the EOC ensures continuity. "In doing so, we always have three key principles that we keep in mind: unity of effort, single point ordering and joint public information. When we activate the EOC, we have a lot of people stepping into entirely different roles and everything is on the emergency; and that is our top priority."
Current indicators from the Virginia Department of Health show that there will be an "exponential daily increases in cases" before the peak, which, according to modeling predictions, is likely to occur in Virginia towards the end of May. The peak for Maryland is currently forecast to occur around May 1; and the peak for Washington, D.C. is forecast to peak around April 17.
There are contingency plans in place for extra beds should they be needed, Martino said. In the first phase, hospitals would expand to facilities on their campuses, such as empty wings and extra rooms where no-COVID-19 patients would be treated. During Phase 2, hospitals would use other facilities on their campuses to keep patients close to medical care. During Phase 3, officials would coordinate with emergency managers to identify other alternate care facilities, within two miles of a hospital, where beds could be installed for patients to support non-critical patient care surge.
The alternate care sites concepts are based on a regional preliminary survey process conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers with the input of state officials and several localities. No final decisions have been made about alternate care sites in the region or the Commonwealth. State officials will make an announcement as soon as plans have been finalized.
Staffing, administration and supplying the alternate sites will be a challenge, Martino said. "The hospitals have indicated to us… that they do not have the means and will not be able to staff those alternate facilities."
Additional planning efforts the county is undertaking through the Emergency Operations Center includes continued coordination in support of local healthcare facilities; establishing a Prince William Disaster Fund; developing a plan to request and collect donations for personal protective equipment for healthcare and public safety personnel; accommodations for homeless under quarantine or isolation; and supporting existing community partners who perform food distribution functions within the community.
The county's Department of Economic Development is coordinating with the business community and stakeholders to identify resources and services that are in need during the crisis. Businesses can access important resources and updates at www.PrinceWilliamCounty.biz
"We're directing our businesses to contact economic development where we can match up our needs with the offer to donate. We have offers of cash and food to equipment and supplies. That's very encouraging to see," Martino said.
While more than 80 percent of individuals who have COVID-19 will recover without the need for medical attention, 20 percent of infected individuals will need to seek some level of medical attention; and approximately 6 percent will require acute care. Martino pointed out that every age group is susceptible to COVID-19; although, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions are more likely to experience more severe symptoms.
As of April 1, Prince William County has 106 confirmed cases and two fatalities due to COVID-19.
For more information about the county's response to COVID-19, visit pwcgov.org/COVID19.