Pinellas County’s Emergency Operations Center is at a level 1 virtual activation, as of March 31.

This means the county is increasing its level of readiness to address the coronavirus pandemic while maintaining social distancing practices.

According to a press release, county staff and partners are working remotely as much as possible to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Personnel coming into the EOC are being screened before entering the facility.

The county provided information on some of the groups working on addressing local needs.

For example, the EMS Fire Work Group has enacted a COVID-19 Hospital-EMS Plan and designated three dedicated units to minimize spread of infection. The county says all ambulances are disinfected after suspected COVID-19 transports.

The Behavioral Health Work Group, in coordination with Directions for Living, has created a COVID-19-dedicated Emotional Support Call Line, running seven days a week, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., to assist with the emotional needs of the community. The service is free to anyone who needs it.

Residents can call 727-524-4464, ext. 1001. According to information posted at https://www.facebook.com/DirectionsForLiving/, callers should leave their name and number, and someone will return the call within two operating hours.

The number is for emotional support only. If you need help with resources, you should call 211. If you have a life-threatening medical emergency, call 911. If you have a mental health emergency, call PEMHS Crisis hotline at 727-541-4628.

Emotional support also is available for personnel at the Pinellas Regional 911 call center through stress reduction programs for operators.

The Business Work Group is collaborating with local businesses to review and assess prototype gowns, face shields, and masks, establishing local sources of supply for mission-essential personal protective equipment.

The Hospital Working Group is monitoring resource needs and connecting hospitals together to work efficiently and distribute supplies as needed. The Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility Working Group is establishing contingency plans within the facilities and identifying resources.

The county has requested donations for personal protective equipment and disinfectants needed for hospitals, first responders, emergency medical services, nursing homes and home healthcare providers.

Officials announced on March 27 that only about two weeks of supplies remained.

Collection sites were set up. The county says “tens of thousands” of needed items were donated, but more are still needed. For information on collection sites and how to donate, visit www.pced.org/donate.

Local law enforcement continues to monitor businesses to ensure they are following social distancing guidelines. Violations of the safer at home order for businesses can be made by calling the Sheriff's Tip Line at 727-582-TIPS. Businesses can also call that number with questions about how the order applies to them. The tip line had received more than 365 calls as of March 29.

Meanwhile, the county continues to reach out to the public, including Spanish- and Vietnamese- speaking residents as well as the deaf/hard of hearing community through American Sign Language Public service announcements.

Residents can call the Citizen Information Center at 727-464-4333, 8 a.m. -8 p.m., Monday-Friday, and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Those with hearing impairment can communicate online at www.bit.ly/PinellasChat.

The latest information about the county’s COVID-19 response is available at www.pinellascounty.org/COVID19.

In addition, resident should monitor local news media, and stay tuned via Facebook @PinellasCountyNews and Twitter @PinellasCoNews. Register for emergency alerts at www.pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.