Marion County Courthouse. (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

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Marion County declared a state of emergency Monday to address the spread of COVID-19, putting the county’s emergency operation plan into effect and allowing it to request assistance from the state.

 “We are here to talk about declaring an emergency because this virus has the potential and is already impacting lives in Marion County,” said Katrina Rothenberger, the county public health administrator.

Rothenberger addressed two of the commissioners at a special board of commissioners meeting Monday morning. Commissioner Kevin Cameron was not present but called in to the meeting.

While reading the emergency declaration aloud, Commissioner Sam Brentano said the county has used local resources to do contact tracing, disease investigations and to keep the community informed.

 “Any other resources related to the health and safety of the community are expected to be exhausted,” Brentano said.

Commissioner Colm Willis said area health providers are concerned about having enough test kits and protective equipment like gowns and masks. 

“I think this emergency is necessary for us to try and get that protective equipment,” he said. “It’s really important that we all pull together to prevent it from spreading.”

Willis said the county will continue to offer services and plans to adjust meetings to ensure there’s proper social distancing.

He said the county is going to rely on department heads to determine what that means for each department.

Jolene Kelley, county spokeswoman, said the operations plan describes how the county will respond to disasters within the community.

Kelley said the county’s public health incident management team began meeting in February and as the situation progressed, it implemented a department operations center on March 2.

She said the county is planning to cancel some large events and spaced chairs in the Board of Commissioners meeting room further apart.

“From a county level we’re committed to doing everything we can to slow the transmission of this disease,” Kelley said. 

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