WHITLEY COUNTY — Despite national reports that Americans should prepare for a coronavirus crisis in the U.S. the risk for Whitley County residents still remains low, according to local health officials.
Whitley County Public Health Director Marcy Rein remains in conversation with multiple other health directors regarding COVID-19. Rein helps clear up some misconceptions and provides prevention advice.
“Most of my conversations have been in the form of a webinar or telephonic briefings that update our situational awareness of the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Rein “Often those briefings include undated numbers and locations, any changes in definitions, testing protocols, and time for questions and answers.”
Rein gets several regular email updates, summaries of meetings, and guidance documents from the Department for Public Health, National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the CDC. However, while DPH has made themselves available as a resource for Rein to call directly, she has not had the need at this point related to COVID-19.
On Feb. 18 Rein was a part of was a live briefing provided by Dr. Doug Thoroughman, the Acting State Epidemiologist, at a Kentucky Health Department Association meeting. During that briefing, they discussed the above mentioned items as well as mentioned the differences between terms like monitoring and persons under investigation.
Kentucky is monitoring people who returned from cruise ships, for example. Officials confirmed that DPH would make local health departments aware of any people in their jurisdiction under monitoring or persons under investigation. Whitley County does not have any people under monitoring, persons under investigation, or any cases of COVID-19.
“Our risk as a community remains low.,” said Rein. “As public health officials, we continue to monitor the situation and prepare to respond.”
While the number and frequency of the briefings with state and federal partners regarding COVID-19 has fluctuated during the evolving situation the CDC is now conducting three briefing calls a week.
“They have just designated that two of those will have fewer participants who will report out to others because logistically, it’s difficult to have huge numbers on calls,” said Rein. “The state has been conducting briefings generally weekly as well as sending out regular guidance updates.”
The way to prevent COVID-19 is the same as preventing other respiratory illnesses.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home when you are ill. Cover your cough and sneeze using your elbow or tissue (not your hand). Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Rein also encourages parents and teachers to work with children to practice good hand washing.
“We also always want people to be generally prepared for emergencies or disasters – whether it’s floods or a pandemic,” added Rein. “That means having enough food, water, medicines, and other supplies on hand for at least three days and having an emergency communication plan. Businesses and organizations need to prepare too. There is a ton of information at ready.gov about how to do those things.
When asked if there was something similar Rein could compare this crisis to Rein said, not really.
“There was an (H1N1) influenza pandemic in 2009. COVID-19 is not influenza, but they are both respiratory viruses,” she added.
Rein also notes some confusion regarding the issue:
“COVID-19 is a new coronavirus,” noted Rein. “Coronaviruses are common, and there are human coronaviruses and animal coronaviruses. If you think of human coronavirus as an umbrella, there are lots of types of coronaviruses under that umbrella, including SARS, MERS, and the “common cold.” COVID-19 is a newcomer under the umbrella. (It is suspected that it evolved and “jumped” from the animal coronavirus umbrella to the human umbrella).”