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Ashland's county leaders immediately sprung into action when the COVID-19 pandemic officially impacted Ashland in March; and they're still actively working to protect the community from further contagion. (File Photo). 

ASHLAND — While hoping for the best, the Ashland County Emergency Management Agency and Ashland County Health Department are already preparing for the worst: a second wave of COVID-19. 

By developing alternative strategies based on the tactics already employed and data collected during the first wave of the coronavirus, local leaders hope to be even more prepared in the instance a second wave occurs. 

Ashland’s preparation prior to COVID-19's Ohio debut and communication throughout the past three months may have played a role in maintaining the county’s lower numbers when compared to neighboring counties. 

When rumors of the first confirmed infected individual in Ashland surfaced, director of the Ashland County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency Mark Rafeld immediately activated the county’s Emergency Operations Center at the former Heartland Home on State Route 60. 

He and others have cited communication between county leaders as crucial during the first wave and attributed that to Ashland’s quick response in handling potential cases. Several individuals, including Rafeld, Mayor Matt Miller, representatives of the Ashland County Health Department and a multitude of local safety and medical officials, met via Zoom Meeting five days week to discuss the county’s needs and to develop a reactionary plan to withstand future infections.

“I think we have done things that we have learned from in this first wave that will certainly already be in place if we do have a second wave of this,” said Rafeld. “We now know what things are important, and what things really aren’t as important as others; and I think we’ve gone through and modified our plans.

“I think the things that we are taking away from this first time around are going to make that a smoother transition going into that next event, if that occurs.”

Rafeld added the Emergency Management Agency has modified their emergency operations planning to include a more detailed scheme to endure a global pandemic.

Mayor Matt Miller also commented on the county’s preparation towards a second wave of coronavirus.

“I think during the last several months we have learned a lot about our communications processes between the different agencies as we’ve gone through this first cycle of the COVID virus, and that has allowed us to address any issues,” Mayor Miller said. “If a second wave of the virus should come through our community, I believe we will be more than ready to address it, but we are hoping and praying that does not take place.”

According to Jill Hartson, Ashland County Health Department’s public information officer, any information regarding a second wave should be taken with a grain of salt.

“Anything that has to do with COVID-19, and its behavior now and in the future is speculation until scientists learn more about it,” said Hartson.

She advises community members to continue to contribute to county’s health and safety by scrupulously adhering to social distancing guidelines, as well as always wearing masks while in public locations.

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West Sunbury, PA native & recent AU grad. Also the news and sports announcer for 104.5 WQKT in Wooster & a trivia host at local venues. An avid vinyl record collector with a cat named Raava and hedgehog named Lucille.