The greater Freeman community has been at work to collectively prepare informed responses to COVID-19. Members of our community - from businesses to schools to government to healthcare - have been joining forces to navigate this uncharted territory.
Greater Freeman Community Response Team
Representatives from the City of Freeman, Freeman Public, Freeman Academy, and the Freeman ministerium have participated in a series of three planning sessions hosted by Freeman Regional Health Services (FRHS) within a span of seven days. Dr. Ken Kirton, Dr. Shakil Hafiz, Chief Nursing Officer Courtney Unruh, and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for FRHS Michelle Neuharth provided medical expertise and guidance as the team problem-solved potential issues related to COVID-19. Additional phone conferences are set to take place to facilitate a pro-active community response that will mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and prevent health care facilities from becoming overwhelmed.
Support to Area Businesses
Leaders from 47 community businesses participated in one of the seven call-in sessions hosted by Dr. Kirton, FRHS provider, on Wednesday and Thursday. After Dr. Kirton provided an overview of COVID-19, he shared recommendations on how to reduce virus transmission and answered their questions. These sessions were informative and offered advice including ways to handle incoming mail and customer payments, along with changes to processes that specific businesses could take to address their concerns.
As a resource to our local business community, FRHS has placed a list of screening questions in the “News & Events” section of their FreemanRegional.com website. This question set will be continuously updated in response to guidelines provided by the CDC and the South Dakota Department of Health. Businesses are advised to regularly return to the FRHS website for the latest set. Community businesses are encouraged to develop their own action plan based upon customer responses to these questions.
The screening question set as of March 18 is outlined below.
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Screening Questions for Community Businesses - 3/19/20
**PLEASE NOTE*** THIS SCREENING QUESTION SET CHANGES ON A REGULAR BASIS
We will update this question set as we receive new COVID-19 information
Remember to maintain a 6 foot minimum distance between you and the individual. We advise that you request those coming in to wash or sanitize their hands upon entry.
Do you have a new onset of fever which appeared in the past two weeks?
Do you have a new onset of cough in the past two weeks?
Do you have a new onset of shortness of breath in the past two weeks?
Have you had close contact with someone who has traveled to China, Europe (except the United Kingdom), Iran, South Korea, Malaysia, Illinois, California, Washington State, or New York State? If yes, ask about specifics as needed.
Have you had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset?
Call-in Forum For The Greater Freeman Community
A call-in forum for the greater Freeman community will be hosted by Dr. Kirton on Tuesday evening, March 24 at 7 PM. Dr. Kirton will answer questions regarding COVID-19 and share his advice to those on the call. Bridgewater, Freeman, Marion, & Menno community members who want to join Tuesday’s call-in need to register in advance by calling 605-925-2142.
Modified Workplace Protocols In Action
Freeman’s second largest employer is one local company that has implemented a pro-active response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vermeer Freeman General Manager Scott Eberts notes that the company is in daily communication with their corporate office and is staying informed of the latest guidelines. Their goals are to protect the health of their team members and to keep operations functional. This community business has been modifying workplace protocols so they can continue to support their customers. We anticipate that other businesses will develop similar action plans in the near future.
The key changes implemented by Vermeer Freeman are outlined below.
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19):
Modified Workplace Protocols In Action - 3/20/20
Key changes implemented at Vermeer Freeman in response to COVID-19 include the following:
Social distancing and personal hygiene practices are promoted. Handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and maintaining as much space as possible from others are among those practices.
Group meetings are limited in size to 10 or fewer individuals.
WebEx/conference calls are expected to be utilized for most meetings to eliminate contact wherever possible.
Vendor/sales calls have been postponed or canceled and all visits to the facility must be approved.
All business travel must be pre-approved.
Break and vending areas have been closed to eliminate contact, with team members encouraged to utilize their area or vehicles when taking breaks.
Those performing functions that can be done from home – including engineering, purchasing, and accounts payable – are now working remotely.
Restrooms and high traffic areas, including door handles, are being sanitized 3 times a day.
Sanitizing stations have been placed in centralized locations so team members can clean their areas when needed.
All team members are encouraged to NOT come to work if they’re not feeling well.