Hancock officials discuss pandemic response document

by Geoff Fox

Town officials discussed their recently-released pandemic response document during the April town meeting, held via teleconference to reduce personal contact.

Mayor Ralph Salvagno said the purpose of the document was to have something in place should methods of communication between the state, county, and town be overwhelmed.

It would also provide a framework for a more comprehensive disaster response.

Town Manager Joe Gilbert said the plan forms an organization that would not only respond to the current pandemic, but to any future emergencies.

The response team created by the plan includes Amy Gillespie as Coordinating Officer, Dr. Matthew Hahn as Exposure Control Officer, Salvagno, Police Chief Jim Robison, Fire Chief Robert Hoopengardner, and the president of the Hancock Rescue Squad, Gilbert said.

“In the event we have to ramp up or do a more robust pandemic response, then we have an organization to do it with,” he said.

The plan also establishes a headquarters, where would that be and how would it function.

Salvagno said, aside from the situation like the current one, this type of system could also be used should there be a chemical spill on the interstate where all the resources would be coming from Hagerstown and the town is cut off.

“That might be an instance where you might use the framework of what we’re doing here,” the mayor said.

The document authorizes additional measures for emergency response. Currently, it mandates that town employees use face masks when dealing with the public.

Salvagno said town officials can’t enforce employees of other agencies or businesses wearing masks, though that is the suggestion for workers and the public.

“We felt it would be a benefit and an example if our employees were masked when they’re in contact with the public,” he said. “But as far as the general population, we really don’t have the ability to enforce that.”

Salvagno said the county has been “really good” about getting the town the supplies it needs so far.

COVID-19 cases in the county continue to rise.