WATERLOO — Black Hawk County opened an emergency operations center Tuesday to coordinate its response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
But Sheriff Tony Thompson and Supervisor Dan Trelka were at odds over whether opening the facility now was a good idea.
“This is a mistake,” said Trelka, who is running for sheriff against Thompson in the fall general election. “This could go on for a number of months. It’s not needed yet.”
Trelka said the center will bring together too many critical employees and local leaders in a confined space, which risks spreading the virus, and also could wear down emergency response staff.
Thompson interrupted Trelka to say the center was going to open “because of the necessity of sharing information and partnering with other agencies.”
Lorie Glover, Black Hawk County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, also disagreed with Trelka.
She said the center will screen elected officials, law enforcement, medical staff and others entering the facility for the virus, which will include taking their temperature.
The center would be a central point to share information and communicate between agencies, Glover said. Polk, Linn, Johnson, Pottawattamie, Dubuque and other counties have opened similar centers.
“We already have community panic,” Glover said. “I think by opening and showing a unified front in Black Hawk County we can bring our partners together and help quell some of this.”
County Public Health Director Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye also supported the concept.
“I do think this is the most efficient way,” she said. “It’s a way for us to try our best to reduce panic and ensure the community we are providing them with just-in-time information.”
Gilbertville Mayor Mark Thome said he appreciated having the center in place.
“There’s a lot of questions (in Gilbertville) and they don’t have places to go,” Thome said. “They’re calling City Hall and asking questions.
“We don’t have the answers,” he added. “I think it’s important to open the EOC to have one central location to answer those questions.”
Thompson said the EOC plans to hold daily news briefings to get information out through the local media.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.