Coronavirus: Grand Center volunteer

Brenda Wyatt stands next to the truck she uses to deliver meals from the The Grand Center. Grand County is expanding the meal delivery program with the goal of reducing the chance of exposure to the coronavirus for Grand County’s most vulnerable populations.[Photo by Heila Ershadi / Moab Sun News]

Moab residents are looking for ways to help each other amid the closures of businesses, schools and municipal buildings and care for those most at risk of severe infection.

Local agencies are stepping up as well: Grand County is organizing a food delivery service for at-risk residents, Moab local Dave Biershied has offered to be a coordinator for people who want to share supplies, and many more Moab locals have posted on social media offering supplies or delivery services.

The Grand Center of Grand County already offers a food delivery service to seniors and they are expanding the program with the goal of reducing the chance of exposure to the coronavirus for Grand County’s most vulnerable populations. That includes people over the age of 60 and people with pre-existing medical conditions. Delivery will also be available for those who suspect they may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

County Administrator Chris Baird, who has been leading the effort to expand the program, says he wants these populations to be able to self-quarantine as directed by the Health Department to reduce the rate of infection.

So far there have been no extra requests for food deliveries. Baird said he expects the need to pick up when cases of COVID-19 are reported in the area; as of March 19, no confirmed cases have been reported in Grand County.

Baird said the program will be administered by Grand Center employees, who will adhere to social distancing practices while conducting food drop-offs. Baird described a procedure in which a time and location is identified, a county employee drops off the requested items, and the recipient picks it up without coming into contact with the deliverer.

“I want to make sure we’re in tight control over the protocol, so we’re not infecting people by trying to help them,” explained Baird. “Right now, the protocol is just zero interaction.”

In order to ensure compliance with those protocols, Baird said the delivery program will use only county employees, not volunteers.

Uncharted Territory

Dave Bierschied

Everyday Moab residents have been eager for ways to offer support to their community during this public health crisis. Local resident Dave Bierschied, owner of Moab Realty, said he approached county officials about getting involved after the March 11 emergency meeting of the Grand County Council, at which a proposed order temporarily restricting public gatherings was defeated.

At the meeting, Bierschied discouraged the council from recommending a limit on events and gatherings, fearing the move would have a negative effect on the local economy. After the meeting, Bierchied said he spoke directly with Baird and Southeast Utah Health Department official Orion Rogers and told them he’d like to see information more effectively disseminated to the public, and a way for members of the public to get involved in the COVID-19 response.

“I just had to have something to do,” Bierschied said. “I just can’t stand not doing anything.”

Bierschied himself offered to be a contact for people looking to give or receive information, services, or supplies. He reported that, so far, people have been reaching out to offer help and resources. One person donated a $100 gift card to a local grocery store. Another offered extra packages of toilet paper, which has been the subject of local shortages. Bierschied said he himself donated several hundred tote bags to the school district, so they have a way to transport supplies to students who will be studying from home while public school classes are suspended.

Bierschied is also keeping track of organizations that can provide services to residents and individuals who express interest in volunteering, so he will know what resources to tap into as needs arise.

“There’s no set protocol, because this is uncharted stuff,” Bierschied said, explaining that he wasn’t completely sure how his role will evolve as the pandemic plays out.

Reaching out online

Community Facebook pages have accumulated dozens of posts from Moab residents offering to donate supplies like disinfectants and paper towels to those in need, offering to pick up food or prescriptions for friends and neighbors from at-risk demographics, requesting items and information, and advising each other on where and when to access necessities. One local man even offered homegrown meat to families in need.

Owners of The Gym on 5th, Emily Klarer and Casey Montandon, recently made the decision to close their doors and cancel their classes to ensure the community’s safety. In an email notifying members, they said they are exploring ways to volunteer to help the community. Klarer told the Moab Sun News that they’re not yet sure what that will look like in action.

“It’s such a unique situation that no one really knows how to navigate it,” said Klarer. She said for now, they may start with elderly and at-risk people that gym members know personally, and mobilize interested volunteers to deliver groceries, medications and sundries to those in need.

Baird noted that as people organize assistance for fellow community members, they should keep in mind social distancing guidelines from the CDC and the Health Department: maintain a distance of at least six feet from others; stay home if you are sick; wash your hands often; cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze.

“You don’t want to just drop in on somebody that’s at-risk and increase exposure,” he cautioned. “Even if you’re helping somebody, please practice social distancing.”

Are you or someone you know engaged in helping Moab-area community members respond to coronavirus? Let us know about it by emailing Managing Editor Maggie McGuire at moabsunnewseditor@gmail.com.