COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Emergency Operations Center in Columbia was full of officials from around the Midlands as they discussed steps being taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Officials with the City of Columbia, Richland County, City of Cayce, Forest Acres, Fort Jackson, DHEC, and representatives from the school districts and universities in the county all gathered to make up the Midlands Coronavirus Task Force.
"At this point in time there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state of South Carolina," says Dr. John Saunders, MD of Doctors Care.
Dr. Saunders reiterated the importance of washing your hands, and covering your mouth when coughing.
Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia says they are hoping to educate the public and curb fears.
"This is a reason for great concern," says Benjamin. "We are talking about a serious virus. We're taking about potential epidemic and pandemic levels. So we have to treat it with the gravity that it require, but also with the ease and calm that allows us to communicate. The question is not if the coronavirus will be here, it will be here. The question is when it will be here and whether or not we are organized as a community to properly respond to it."
The city has advised employees of steps to take if they feel ill. They are also providing hand-sanitizer stations within city buildings.
"We are making sure that our individuals who work outside of the office, which is a majority of our employees who are working with citizens, are protected," says Teresa Wilson, City Manager. "That includes our first responders."
Richland County is also monitoring the spread of the coronavirus around the nation. County officials met on Thursday afternoon.
“We are aware of the concerns among residents as more people across the nation contract this virus,” County Council Chair Paul Livingston says in a statement. “It is important we act diligently and responsibly to ensure we’re ready to provide a focused and coordinated response that puts residents and employees at top of mind. Preparation is key, and this is no time to spread misinformation and rumors."