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The Jasper County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been active since March 20. The activation, initiated by Jasper County Emergency Management, has brought together several of Jasper County’s local government agencies to help coordinate response and communication. The activation of the emergency operations center occurs during critical incidents, and the current operation is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The EOC allows for the coordination of disaster response to occur in one central location. During an activation, representatives from multiple agencies across Jasper County come together to ensure a well-coordinated response that meets the needs of residents in our county,” said Jasper County Emergency Management director Jim Sparks. “During this activation, we have seen agencies step up to provide critical services to meet the many needs present within Jasper County. Each agency is working tirelessly to respond to this pandemic.” The emergency operations center works with multiple community agencies and partners to coordinate responses and to communicate information that is often changing. Partners include MercyOne Newton Medical Center, Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, and other local law enforcement agencies, Newton Fire Department and other county EMS providers, Jasper County, the City of Newton, and other local governments, and Jasper County Health Department.“We are proud to work with our community partners during this unprecedented time,” said Leisa Zylstra, Foundation and Mission Manager for MercyOne Newton. “MercyOne remains unwavering in our commitment to deliver high-quality, compassionate care to Newton and our surrounding communities. We appreciate the dedication of many, including our caregiving teams, for their resolve, courage, and commitment to stop this virus and for helping those most in need.” Emergency management officials send weekly updates from the emergency operations center to the Emergency Management Commission. The membership of the commission includes a representative from the Board of Supervisors, the Sheriff and the Mayor from each municipality in Jasper County. “We’ve gotten a lot of support and cooperation from area elected officials,” said Sparks. “Without that support, our operations would not be successful.” MercyOne Newton Medical Center and officials at the emergency operations center work together every week on a variety of projects, from working to inform partners, including long term care facilities, on changes in operations to ensuring access to personal protective equipment to care for patients. The emergency operations center has worked with the hospital, long term care facilities, and EMS to obtain personal protective equipment from vendors and the State of Iowa. Several generous donations from local businesses and residents of Jasper County, including homemade masks, have been distributed out of the emergency operations center.The emergency operations center has also developed a way to decontaminate personal protective equipment using UV light so that masks, face shields, and goggles, whether donated or purchased, can be reused. Jasper County Health Department is a constant presence at the emergency operations center as they provide information online and through news releases for keeping residents of Jasper County healthy and safe during this pandemic. “We know this is a difficult time for many of us,” said Becky Pryor, Jasper County Public Health Administrator. “Many closures are affecting daily life, and the concern about COVID-19 is real and understandable. Residents need to know the emergency operations center is constantly working with our partners, private and public, to keep Jasper County residents healthy and safe.” But it’s also essential for Jasper County residents to take responsibility to keep themselves, their families, and their neighbors healthy and safe. “We ask Jasper County residents to step up and take control of their actions,” said Pryor. “It’s important for everyone to stay home as much as possible and to practice social distancing – this means to stay away from groups of people and to keep a 6-foot distance from other individuals. If you feel sick, call your doctor or call 2-1-1.” Officials at the emergency operations center unveiled a portal for the community that will be updated regularly as the latest information is ever-changing. The page can be found at jasperema-hls.org/jasper-disaster/.