At a time statewide COVID-19 prevention measures are keeping people further apart, Somerset County commissioners said they are turning to technology to bring them together – virtually, at least.
The board of commissioners, which turned to teleconferencing for the first time Tuesday, have added a county Facebook page to better connect the community to government services, continued updates and each other.
"Facebook seems to be the medium that a lot of people are using right now to communicate," Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said. "This will give us a central point of contact and an immediate opportunity to communicate with the public."
The page – "Somerset County, Pennsylvania" – is at www.facebook.com/pacountysomerset.
Since Thursday, county officials have posted updates on Somerset County's website and as of Tuesday, updates with images are now being added to the Facebook page.
Echoing a move by fellow counties across the state, Somerset issued a disaster declaration on Thursday and closed its buildings to the public to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Somerset and Clearfield counties were alerted about their first coronavirus test results Tuesday.
"This is what we've expected and what we've been preparing for over the past three weeks," President Commissioner Gerald Walker said.
Pennsylvania state officials have confirmed 851 COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) cases across more than 30 counties, including one positive test result for an individual being treated in Cambria County.
County officials said they are asking the public to follow state and public health guidelines to avoid catching or sharing the infection – and to stay calm, stay home and stay educated on the ever-changing situation.
"This is a serious situation," Tokar-Ickes said. "Please take those precautions you are hearing from public health officials."
Walker said the continued spread of the coronavirus is requiring the county to continue to adapt as well.
"We're asking people to bear with us. Information changes by the minute and we're trying to adapt as quickly as possible when new information is coming out," Walker said.
The commissioners' office will work to keep "everyone as up-to-date as possible," he added.
For county residents who travel to the county's offices for information, Commissioner Colleen Dawson said she's hopeful the effort will shine a light on the broad list of services the county already provides online.
Real estate information, the court calendar, property parcel maps and county job openings are posted on Somerset County's website, www.co.somerset.pa.us.
"County government doesn't shut down," Dawson said.
"But we want to meet the community's needs and keep them safe."