I asked Google to count the days for me. She said it has been 123 days since March 2, 2020.

March 2 is the date we had our first coronavirus specific planning meeting in Clay County. The virus had been on our radar for a few weeks and we had discussed it in our monthly planning meetings with our Emergency Support Function (ESF) planning partners but by March 2 it was obvious it was going to need more of our attention.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been open and working since that date. I’ve worked in emergency services in our county for 40 years (June 1, 1980 when the county took over EMS operations) I don’t remember that we have ever had our EOC open for more than two or three days after storms or floods.

The county added Emergency Management to my other duties 28 years ago. There has not been an incident in the state during those years that has kept the state EOC and local EOC’s activated and involving so many agencies and partners for so long.

We started scaling back conference calls and webinar meetings on Sunday’s a few weeks ago. And this weekend, I don’t think we are doing the calls on Saturday. Unless something changes.

We have also never had an incident as unpredictable as this one. With a flood or tornado or hazardous materials disaster, even though unexpected things happen, there is a predictable pattern to the incident. We know somewhat what to expect, how to react and actions we can take to redirect the event to minimize the damage and protect lives and property.

Every day with this pandemic the first thing we do is pull up the information sources to see what happened while we rested. We spend a good deal of our time every morning reading and learning about latest developments. If you listened in on the special meeting the Clay County Board of County Commissioners held yesterday you heard our county Health Officer, Dr. Tim Penner talk about how quickly this pandemic moves and how quickly things change and how the science is moving faster than any of us have ever seen before.

The warp-speed change is our challenge as we try to chart a path through this. Things really can, and often do, change daily. Whether it is figuring out a re-opening plan, making decisions about masks or trying to figure out the safest way to get kids back to school and businesses growing again it is harder because the effects of the pandemic and what we know about it keeps changing.

Unplanned change often causes confusion and causes stress and can generate fear. It isn’t that the CDC, WHO, KDHE and the other health agencies working to mitigate the effects of the pandemic are giving us “different stories.”  It is the effect of that rapid change that is behind much of the information chaos we have to cope with.

Our local team is working hard to communicate, keep up, learn as much as we can, and make good recommendations to the decision makers. We’ve met daily for most of those 122 days and we will continue to do so as we develop and implement recovery planning. Overall our county’s citizens have been understanding and supportive of local efforts to keep our community safe.

We have to keep working together on this. It isn’t over and it won’t be over for quite some time. We have to find a way to live around it.

We are not mandating masks at this point because we have that foundation of trust with each other and we think our community can continue to heal and recover by simply asking everyone, regardless of personal opinion, to work together and do what is recommended.

If something changes and increasing numbers of people in our community get sick, have to be hospitalized or we see additional deaths, our plan will have to change to meet that challenge. Working together may prevent that from happening.

Avoid gathering closer than 6 feet with non-household members. Wash your hands 3 times more than you did before this started. Be kind and respectful when a business asks you to put on a mask. Don’t make sarcastic comments to people in the store who are wearing a mask. Wear a fabric mask when distance can’t be maintained. Stay informed by using reliable sources for information.

And be thankful that we live in a community that focuses on building each other up instead of tearing each other down.