170 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in 29 Ohio counties have been reported as of Friday, March 20. Also on Friday, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reported that Ohio has had its first death from the virus (a Lucas County resident; see related story in this edition).
To date, 39 people have been hospitalized in Ohio due to the coronavirus, according to www.coronavirus.ohio.gov
Matt Brewster, Health Commissioner of the Pike County General Health District, recently provided updated information about the coronavirus that hopefully will serve as a prevention and protection guide for the residents of Pike County. That information is presented in the following Question and Answer format with more of Brewster’s thoughts at the end of the Question and Answer section.
1. What precautions should everyone here in Pike County be taking to protect themselves from contracting and spreading the coronavirus?
Answer: The first thing Pike County Citizens can do is shelter in place if possible, meaning they should stay home as much as they can. The second thing individuals and families can do is to practice social distancing, even in their homes. Social distancing is maintaining a space of at least 6 feet in between individuals. A third thing for Pike County to do is to disinfect high-touch surfaces frequently. The final and most important thing we can do to prevent any disease, is frequent hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for at least 20 seconds. (Editor’s Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] state that the hand sanitizer should contain at least 60 percent alcohol.)
2. What is Pike General Health District’s protocol in the event the coronavirus is confirmed in a patient here in Pike County or in neighboring counties?
Answer: When PCGHD (Pike County General Health District) receives confirmation of the first case of COVID-19 in Pike County, the first step will be to obtain a thorough travel and contact history. Our public health nurses will then work to notify contacts of the need to self-quarantine and self-monitor to protect their families and the community. Our next step will be to notify our emergency response partners at the state and local levels. Finally, we will issue a press release of confirmed case(s) that will be sent out to media along with posting the release on our Facebook page.
3. Is Pike County planning to implement drive-thru coronavirus testing in the near future?
Answer: There have been discussions among our partners to set this up if the need arises.
4. What is your advice for anyone who has a cold or is experiencing flu-like symptoms but is reluctant to seek medical attention out of fear of being investigated or quarantined?
Answer: Anyone with a fever should be self-isolating to protect others; by self-isolating we mean staying at home and minimizing contact with others until you are fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications. Many individuals fail to do this, which is why we have seen such high influenza numbers this season. Individuals should contact their primary care physician to determine if testing is necessary. Individuals should also be aware that while conducting investigations on infectious disease, our public health staff does not release names or personal information. Quarantine sounds scary, but it is mainly lonely and boring. There are steps people can take to reduce the monotony and maintain mental health such as phone calls, video calls, and other activities.
5. Shouldn’t the public still be using precautions against the spread of influenza (that resulted in 914 hospitalizations in Ohio from March 1 to March 7 — Week 10 — and was listed as moderate in intensity at that time)? What precautions do you recommend?
Answer: Flu is still very active in Ohio. See #1 above – same protocol to prevent the spread of flu as COVID-19
6. In a March 19 press conference, President Trump mentioned two drugs being considered for treating Covid-19 patients, hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir. What information do you have on these drugs?
Answer: Antimalarial and antiviral drugs have not yet been approved for the treatment of COVID-19 by the FDA. Physicians can use these medications for “compassionate use” or extreme cases. The physician must then share information on the patient’s response to the medication, to inform clinical trials and regulatory efforts.
As of 09:30am 03/20/2020, Pike County does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19. PCGHD has been working diligently with our partners in the community to protect the health of Pike County Citizens, Brewster said.
More Thoughts from Pike County Health Commissioner Matt Brewster: “As a reminder, all the measures taken by Gov. DeWine are to “flatten the curve” to keep daily number of disease cases at a manageable level for medical providers. In other words, we spread those cases over a longer period of time to prevent that spike where our healthcare systems cannot keep up. If the public doesn’t listen and does not practice social distancing, then we will be in the same horrible predicament as Italy — where there aren’t enough ICU beds or ventilators for those who need them. We want a trickle of cases that we can manage, not a surge that overwhelms our capacity.
“We are also acutely aware as the amount of testing increases, the more chance we have for positive cases. Like everywhere else, it isn’t a matter of if but a matter of when.
“The best advice for everyone at this point is to simply stay at home as much as possible. If you aren’t concerned about your health, you really need to think of those that you come into contact with that might have underlying health conditions or that are elderly – you might be fine if you contact COVID-19; they might not be.”