Jefferson County’s Emergency Management Agency Tuesday morning activated the county’s Emergency Operation Center in support of the county Health Department’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

EMA Executive Director Troy Morgan activated the EOC to Level IV — which establishes daily operations — at 7 a.m. The center now will be staffed daily with enhanced hours to meet the needs of the county health department and local residents.

Morgan said the primary mission at this time is dissemination information and that a joint information center is being established to conduct twice-weekly briefings involving agencies that are key to the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said focus of the briefings will be to provide unified presentation and release of all information there while refraining from releasing virus specific information elsewhere. Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. John Hossler, Jefferson County Health Administrator Tammy Monroe and other key players in the response are expected to provide reports.

The first briefing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Jefferson County Public Safety Center, 620 Green Road, on Madison’s hilltop. However, the Public Safety Center is a county building and by order of the Jefferson County Commissioners is currently closed to the public. In addition to the Officials presenting information, members of the media will be invited to broadcast, record ands report on the briefings, said Morgan, noting that all others means will be used to disseminate the information from these briefings as widely as possible.

The Indiana State Department of Health Tuesday reported 107 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing to 365 the number of Hoosiers diagnosed through ISDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private laboratories. So far 12 Hoosiers have died including one in nearby Scott County.

A total of 2,931 tests have been reported to ISDH to date, up from 1,960 on Monday. The first new cases were also reported in Ohio and Dearborn counties, meaning that Jefferson and Switzerland counties are the lone remaining counties in the southeast part of the state without confirmed cases.

However, Hossler said Tuesday he has no doubt that there are cases of coronavirus in Jefferson County but due to the shortage of test kits they are simply going undiagnosed. Once more test kits and testing become available, he expects the county to begin recording positive cases but hopes the county can avoid a communal outbreak.

Hossler said the key to accomplishing that is for local residents and businesses to remain vigilant in precautions like hand washing, social distancing and practicing good sanitation as well as to avoid gathering in groups. He said staying home now and for the foreseeable future could help prevent a wider spread of the virus and assist with the control of the illness locally.

Meanwhile, King’s Daughters’ Health on Monday expanded its restrictions on access to the hospital and other medical facilities to help limit the organization’s exposure to the COVID-19 virus and help protect both patients and staff members.

No visitors or guests will be allowed into the hospital or any KDH medical facility with these four exceptions: One healthy adult parent or guardian may accompany (or visit) a pediatric patient; one healthy adult visitor may accompany a surgical patient for up to 24 hours; one healthy adult visitor may accompany and/or visit a patient on the Mother-Baby Unit (both pre-delivery and postpartum); and visitation in end-of-life situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Elsewhere, the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County is accepting monetary donations to prepare for local COVID-19 relief efforts. The Foundation has activated its Disaster Relief Fund, a pass-through endowment that was created in response to the March 2012 tornado disaster in Jefferson County.

“While Jefferson County currently has no confirmed COVID-19 cases, we know that some nonprofit organizations will see an increase in demand for their services,” said Bill Barnes, Community Foundation President and CEO. “Of the money donated to the Disaster Relief Fund, 100% will be distributed by the Community Foundation to nonprofit organizations assisting the families whose lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. The Foundation will also contribute an amount yet to be determined from its Flexible Community Funds as we find out what our needs are for the community.”

The Community Foundation’s Executive Committee and staff are currently discussing the best way to use available grant dollars to help the nonprofit organizations facing the most need as they assist the residents of Jefferson County. We understand that in addition to this being a current health crisis, this is making an impact on the financial health and well-being of our residents, a foundation release said

Donations can be made online or by mail. When writing a check, please indicate “COVID-19” in the memo line. Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 306, Madison, IN 47250. When donating online, please type “COVID-19” in the “Fund you are donating to” field. Online donations can be made at https://www.cfmjc.org/give_now.php. (Please refrain from using a mobile device for online donations.)