New changes in CARTS procedures

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CULLMAN COUNTY, Ala. — Among the many challenges that come with slowing Covid-19 (coronavirus) from spreading is making sure Cullman County’s homebound residents are able to obtain the essential items they need. Many of those residents rely on CARTS (Cullman Area Rural Transportation Services) for access to shopping, prescriptions and doctor’s appointments. The Cullman County Commission recently announced at a press conference changes to the operating procedures at CARTS.

The following operating procedures was recently implemented by CARTS:

  • Individuals with needs such as dialysis or oncology will travel one at a time and are allowed an attendant when required.
  • No buses will carry more than two (2) passengers at a time.
  • Passengers are advised to stay at home if sick and limit travel unless absolutely necessary.
  • Passengers will be advised to stay at least six (6) feet apart while riding a transit vehicle.
  • Drivers are continuously disinfecting vehicles.

There is still no clear timeframe for when the measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 will be lifted. This has many concerned for homebound residents as their food supplies and prescription medicines begin to run out. CARTS Director Joyce Echols stated, “We are following emergency guidelines and those five rules. We are trying to care of people the best we can, and things are changing day by day.” 

Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker added Monday afternoon, “We know they all don’t have family members, but we are trying to get these buses disinfected and we are supposed to meet with Joyce to see what we can do. We haven’t done that, but we are going to so when I get that question answered, I will let people know. We are trying to work through issues like that right now. We started last week but it’s getting pretty critical today. We’re having to address a lot of issues.”

The Cullman County Commission on Aging has implemented several programs to assist homebound seniors of Cullman County including a Senior Citizen Medication Delivery. The Commission on Aging released the following statement explaining the service:

“The Cullman County Commission on Aging will now deliver medications to senior citizens of Cullman County free of charge. There is no obligation and the only requirements are to be 60 or older. Certain medications will be unavailable for pick-up and payment arrangements must be made with your pharmacy. It is encouraged that you contact your pharmacy first. We look forward to continuing to serve Cullman County and its senior citizens any way possible. For more information, contact the Commission on Aging at 256-734-1241.”

Commission on Aging Director Dusty Baker explained that there are challenges that come with providing grocery delivery.

“Unfortunately, we don’t deliver groceries because of the lack of supply. We don’t know what’s in stock where and then we have the whole money issue.” Baker is currently preparing for short term and long term plans, adding, “We are preparing to provide two weeks’ worth of shelf stable meals, if we can get them, so they will have if we are unable to deliver every day.” Meals on Wheels programs are still being provided to seniors despite the closure of the area’s senior centers.

Baker suggested that residents in need of assistance currently outside of their scope to call 211 or The United Way with help in possibly connecting them with available resources and added “As always, the COA will try to help anyway possible if we can.”

United Way Executive Director Becky Goff and the United Way Board were in an ongoing meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss crisis response.

“We are working to address needs in three particular areas: funding for food pantries, emergency assistance and distressed nonprofits through our Community Relief Fund,” Goff said. “We are addressing individuals on a case by case basis.” Goff recommended that homebound residents begin by calling 211 for resources.

The City of Hanceville took steps to service its citizens when Mayor Kenneth Nail delivered a Facebook Live message Monday morning.

“The sky’s not falling but we are going to have to do some things differently.” He reminded everyone that the third Saturday of every month, the Hanceville United Methodist Church has a food bank and for more information they can call 256-352-5536.

Nail continued, “Guys, let’s just use this right here if we really need it. I would like to put this out for our elderly people or people with disabilities. If you have underlying medical issues and you are older, you need to stay home. Possibly, even if you don’t have that situation, you probably need to stay home anyway. If you are at home and you are afraid to get out or can’t get out, what I want you to do is call Hanceville City Hall 256-352-9830 extension 23 and Kim will answer your call.”

He explained that Hanceville has use of the White City van and people ready to help those in need of groceries or medication. He said, “I’ve got some people on standby that will come out to your residence and they will pick up the funds and they will go pick your medicine or groceries up for you. We will take all appropriate precautions for that also.” This service is only for those services by the Hanceville police and fire departments.

In the Town of South Vinemont, Mayor Radginal Dodson is working to have the Town Hall’s number capable of rolling over to the town clerk, who is now working from home.

“If push comes to shove, call me,” Dodson said. “I can probably get in touch with somebody and get the situation handled.” The South Vinemont Town Hall number is 256-737-5411.

Good Hope Mayor Jerry Bartlett feels confident that the senior and other homebound residents are being taken care of by family or area churches. The city sent a message to all of its seniors asking if they were in need of any help and so far, they have received no calls for assistance.

“I think with the phone calls and the churches and family that it won’t become an issue for us at all.” Bartlett acknowledges that the current situation could stretch on and added, “We are just taking things day by day.”.

Bartlett encourages Good Hope residents to reach out to friends, neighbors and churches if they are in need.

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