BANNOCK COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - In an effort to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 cases, Bannock County commissioners declared an emergency on Monday.
"At the moment, I would say this is an emergency as we prepare for what might happen,” said Commissioner Steve Brown.
Bannock County has not had a positive case of COVID-19 yet. The nearest confirmed case is in Madison County. As of March 17, there are eight cases in Idaho.
The emergency declaration is to prepare for what could be an inevitable outbreak.
“I liken it to popping popcorn. We might have a kernel here or there and it might take time. But if we don’t take the steps necessary to prevent other kernels of popcorn from popping, they’ll all start popping at once and we won’t know which one they are," Brown said.
But declaring an emergency is not cause for panic, Brown said. It's primarily procedural.
Declaring an emergency means the county is eligible for federal and state emergency funds.
As the county opens incident command centers, they can use resources from different agencies, like the city of Pocatello and surrounding entities.
“Resources from other agencies: so employees from the city or equipment or technology equipment like computers and things like that,” Brown said.
During an emergency, county officials say they don't have their hands tied from bureaucracy when they need to make fast decisions.
“We’ll use whatever we need to when we need to. I don’t know what that looks like. I think we’re still on the front end of this,” Brown said.
Money used during an emergency still has to come from somewhere.
“Now we have the opportunity to track the funds that we’re spending right now as part of this emergency and look for grants and reimbursement funds to help us pay for the expenses of this,” Brown said.
The new county emergency manager, Wes Jones, is working with the Southeastern Idaho Public Health district to determine what steps need to be taken next.
“I’ve been very impressed with the district health department and the leadership there and the cooperation that we’ve had as a county with them,” Brown said. “I have great confidence in the direction that they’re taking us."
It's a step towards preparing for a pandemic that's already affecting our daily lives.
“It’s a disruption, we recognize that. But this is an unprecedented moment in time,” Brown said.