Imagine the reaction if the people of Dothan (or the entire Wiregrass) woke up on Saturday to the news that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had announced they’d be housing evacuees from a cruise ship quarantined because of the corona virus to the Houston County Farm Center. There’d be a loud outcry — not just from those who may fear that the evacuees could be carrying the virus, but from city and county officials and the health care community, because there is no protocol in place to handle such a task, and no preparation to receive them.
That’s what happened over the weekend in Calhoun County when DHHS homed in on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s installation at the former Fort McClellan to transfer evacuees. After loud outcry, the plan was scuttled within hours.
Now the people of Calhoun County are in the position of defending themselves for not opening the doors to Americans who may have been exposed to the virus. That’s unfortunate, because while it’s human nature to be fearful of the unknown course and inevitable impact of the illness, fear wasn’t the primary factor behind opposition to the plan.
Officials there say there’d been virtually no communication about the proposal, and that the community and its support network were not prepared to handle an influx of people potentially infected with a pathogen that would require a high level of preventative measures and medical care.
There’s little doubt that the people of Calhoun County have empathy for those caught up in the quarantine, whose disrupted lives are further complicated by a fear that they may become ill themselves.
However, moving those evacuees into an area that’s unprepared for them would simply make a bad situation worse.