Human services addresses COVID-19
March 5, 2020
Human services addresses COVID-19
To The Eagle:
Citizens of Wahkiakum County:
Don’t Panic. Please practice prevention and preparedness.
This weekend was an eventful one for public health. On Thursday of last week there was one confirmed case in Washington of COVID-19. As of Tuesday, this week, there are 18 confirmed cases and unfortunately, six fatalities in the State. COVID-19 is colloquially being referred to as Coronavirus or the Wuhan virus. There is a significant amount of misinformation and uninformed opinion making going on nationally. In my position, and for purposes of this letter, I will not be addressing the political goings on of COVID-19. Instead I’m going to put some solid public health information on the record.
COVID-19 poses a legitimate threat to people. It is not the flu or a cold. This is a new virus closely related to viruses we already know, and are familiar with, like SARS or MERS. COVID-19 is respiratory in nature with symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Since this is a new virus, humans don’t have natural immunities to this like with the flu or a cold. Unlike the flu, there is no immunization for COVID-19 and it will probably be a year or more before one can be developed.
What can you do to protect yourself and those around you? Locally our focus needs to be on preparing for and preventing the spread of COVID-19. To prepare, please consider having extra food and other supplies on hand, planning for 14 days of food would be excellent. For prevention, the main ideas are frequent correct handwashing, covering coughs/sneezes, self-quarantine if you have symptoms, not visiting other people who are sick, maintaining social distancing of at least six feet when out in public. These are common measures which can help prevent the spread of most infectious diseases. Please visit the County’s webpage for COVID-19, wahkiakumcovid19.com, where we have more information about COVID-19.
Is anyone preparing for this? The State is taking this issue very seriously and has been since the first case was confirmed months ago. The State Department of Health activated the state emergency response center in January to help ensure that information and preparation were moving as quickly as possible. Locally, the health department has been talking to many of our local partners since January. Following the events of this past weekend, we have begun having morning briefings with many local entities. We have had significant discussions with the schools and are working with the administration to help with preparation. We have also had discussions about appropriate facility sanitization with the school and other local entities. We have had discussions with our local EMS system, clinic, and law enforcement. We have joined regional discussions planning for movement, treatment, and quarantine of affected individuals, which included clinics, hospitals, and EMS regionally.
The immense amount of disinformation being peddled on social media, like Facebook, is very upsetting as a public health official. There are very reputable places to get real-time, factual, information about COVID-19. Facebook, twitter, and other social media are not those places. Because this is a new virus the information is changing, sometimes very rapidly. Please visit the county website where we have some information and links to places to find more reliable information: wahkiakumcovid19.com.
If you are presenting symptoms like fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath, please call your primary care provider prior to visiting them.
For more information: Wahkiakumcovid19.com
or people may also sign up to receive health issue updates by cellphone text. To sign up, text 30890 and enter “join healthy.”
Director, Health and Human Services