Most of the news about government’s response to COVID-19 has been released at the state and federal levels. But as the epidemic spreads, local governments will become more and more critical.
Some municipal and county officials in our area already have begun planning for that time. Those who have not should. We know lightning-quick reactions save lives.
Social distancing and heightened attention to personal hygiene are vital — but they are not all that needs done to keep us healthy and safe.
Certain services provided by local governments and the private sector are indispensable. They include water and sewer, electric and gas utilities.
Unfortunately, law enforcement is essential, too.
We know that some area residents have become concerned about that to the point that they are buying firearms and ammunition to protect themselves and their families.
Our advice to them is to never, ever forget basic firearms safety rules. A child shot accidentally by a pistol left loaded on the kitchen table is an unacceptable price to pay for “preparedness.”
Criminal elements will attempt to capitalize on the outbreak. Rest assured of that. Being able to summon police and sheriff’s deputies — and know they will respond — will become more important.
The same goes for firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
Keeping essential personnel healthy and focused needs to be the top priority of both local governments and private-sector entities providing critical services. We already know steps that can be taken to safeguard the individuals — but ensuring they are mentally able to do their jobs may require making provisions for their families, too.
To their credit, many local officials have been paying thoughtful attention to the situation. For example, here in Wheeling, restaurants allowed to provide only take-out service are being helped by city action to provide parking spaces for patrons.
And local officials are working closely with health care providers. An example of that is Wheeling police presence at a COVID-19 testing site in Wheeling Park.
COVID-19 has not yet progressed to the full-blown disaster stage — but it is headed in that direction.
If the situation continues to deteriorate, providing basic, life-sustaining services and products will become more of a challenge. In the private sector as well as municipal buildings and courthouses throughout our area, we need to be ready for that.