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Belmont County Senior Services Still Delivering Meals, Home Care

An orange sign posted on the front door to the Martins Ferry Senior Center informs people the facility is closed until further notice.

MARTINS FERRY – Belmont County Senior Services is continuing to provide meal deliveries to homes and medical services to its seniors in need across the county.

Gary Armitage, director, said the agency daily makes adjustments as new information about how to deal with the coronavirus is released from the government.

“We’re thinking on our feet every day,” he said Thursday.

He noted the walk-in senior centers have been closed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, but other services are continuing in an extra careful manner.

“We’re still doing home delivered meals and home care. As long as everyone stays healthy, we will continue to do it. The only thing we have done is close the centers and stopped group transports for very obvious reasons,” he said.

In Martins Ferry, city leaders have been trying to think ahead about what might happen and how the city can help. One idea they have mulled is how to help senior citizens get food if senior services was not able to do the job.

Armitage said he has been talking with Martins Ferry Service Director Andy Sutak frequently about this topic, including how many seniors would be impacted in the city. City officials during a recent brainstorming meeting mulled how they would get the food to the seniors and who would deliver it.

“If we had to cease service, that’s the only way I would see that happening,” Armitage noted.

Armitage said he has also been in touch with Dave Ivan, Belmont County Emergency Management Agency director, about the numbers of seniors in the county, and identifying those who are at most risk of needing extra help.

“If they don’t have any support getting food in, we’re trying to prepare shelf-stable items, enough calories to carry them for a few weeks,” he said of a potential future scenario.

For meal deliveries, some practices have been adjusted. For example, the agency is no longer required to get a signature from the person they are giving the meal to. This way, hundreds of people are not using the same pen and touching the same clipboard, he said.

Also, meal delivery people are not going into people’s homes unless they need help setting up the meal. When they do enter the house, they make sure to sanitize after exiting the home.

“Some people can’t open the milk,” Armitage said.

Armitage added that senior services has dealt with precautionary measures for years.

“We have lived with bloodborne pathogen precautions for 40 years. This is a natural progression,” he said. “The people who are stuck at home, they are the highest risk people out there.”

Armitage said the Ohio Department of Health on Thursday issued a circular to his department about a new Disaster Distress Helpline for people feeling anxiety about the coronavirus situation. The number is: 1-800-985-5990. It will connect callers to a counselor they can speak with.

Armitage said his senior center personnel has been calling and checking on seniors who frequent the now-closed senior centers. He said the changes will be difficult for a lot of seniors, especially those who were accustomed to giving their caregivers and meal delivery people a hug of thanks or a kiss on the cheek. For now, that can’t be done.

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